The joy of giving birth to twin daughters was dashed in the cruellest of ways for Janine Guingan after an alleged error contributed to the girls’ deaths on the day of their birth at Monash Medical Centre.
The 26-year-old mother, along with husband Denis, has “gone through hell’’ during the past three months after the girls’ death due to Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS).
TTTS is a disease of the placenta that affects identical twin pregnancies. The placenta contains abnormal blood vessels that connect the umbilical cords and circulations of the twins. The condition can result in one of the twins suffering decreased blood volume, while the other twin can be overloaded with blood, putting strain on its heart.
On October 9 last year, Ms Guingan was admitted to the Clayton hospital at 35 weeks after experiencing contractions. A subsequent ultrasound found that one of the girls’ hearts was not beating and a caesarean was performed hours later.
After waking from the anaesthetic, Ms Guingan was told that the twin girls – Amelia and Tiana – had suffered from TTTS.
Amelia was by then stillborn and Tiana was on life support and given very little chance of survival. Ms Guingan was then told that she had to immediately decide – while still recovering from the anaesthetic – whether to keep Tiana on life support. She eventually made the heartbreaking decision to turn off life support.
However, Ms Gungian said the crushing blow occurred when the obstetrician alerted her that an ultrasound, conducted two weeks earlier – at the same hospital - showed signs of the condition, which was missed by doctors at the time.
“It all happened very quickly,” Ms Guingan said. “As I was coming out of the anaesthetic after the caesarean, I couldn’t register what was happening but the doctors wanted me to make a decision on Tiana right there.”
“The hospital has actually since admitted that they missed the TTTS during the earlier ultrasound.”
Ms Guingan said the Officer family, including the couple’s two sons – aged six and two – were plagued by the tragedy every day. She said she thought of her daughters constantly, turning to regular counselling to help come to terms with the horrific loss.
“My oldest son has suffered night terrors so it really is affecting us all,” Ms Guingan said. “While they are not physically with us, they will forever be in our hearts.”
Slater and Gordon Principal Lawyer Anne Shortall said no family should have to experience such a preventable loss of life. Ms Shortall said the Guingan family deserved better treatment from the hospital and would consequently be taking civil action.