Cancer sufferer to rescue as second of premature twin baby boys emerges 'purple and not breathing'.
A Kaipara woman who is dying of cancer helped to save the life of her grandson when he was born prematurely and not breathing.
Non-identical twin boys Kotahi and Tawhiri Thompson were born in a farmhouse at remote Pouto, about 50km southeast of Dargaville, after a speedy night-time labour.
Their mother, 32-year-old Sheree Thompson, who has two pre-school daughters, was just 33 weeks pregnant when she woke in discomfort at 2.45am on July 16.
"I got myself up and stood in front of the fire, trying not to disturb anyone as I thought it was just more [pre-labour contractions]."
But by 3am she had woken the household with her howls of pain.
"I stood at the bench and had a couple of sips of Milo and said, 'I can feel a head coming down'. Then I put my hand down and felt it.
"I tried to hold him in and he just came out. He sort of fell into my husband's hands."
The first baby, Kotahi, was born at 3.18am and cried. Tawhiri followed 11 minutes later, but he wasn't breathing.
The family had called 111 for help - a first response vehicle, ambulance and helicopter were sent - but immediate advice was needed for the family to deal with Tawhiri, who came out breech (bottom first) and coloured purple. "The lady at the call centre, she said to whoever, grab the baby and lay him over their forearm with his head facing down. My Mum [Bernice Taurua] held him like that and rubbed his back and may have got the circulation going. My sister-in-law cleared his airways. It took about 2 or 3 minutes for him to make crying noises and start breathing."
Mrs Taurua, 53, is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer which has spread to other parts of her body.
"With her dying, it was just really special that she was able to take part in the birth and save her grandson's life and everything else," Mrs Thompson said.
"She didn't expect to be at the birth because of all the treatments she's going through.
"She's the reason we moved back to Pouto so all the family can be together."
Mrs Thompson and her babies were flown to Whangarei Hospital, where the boys each spent more than a week in an incubator. One was put in a new $51,750 incubator, bought in 2011 with money donated by the annual Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal, which has raised more than $5.7 million for children's wards nationally since 2007.
Both babies are doing well and steadily putting on weight, after being born weighing 2005g (Kotahi) and 1760g (Tawhiri). They will remain in hospital until they can be fully fed without the nose tubes into their stomachs which are still needed.
The babies were taken out of their incubators for their first breastfeed on day 13.
"While they were feeding," their mother said, "one of them reached out and grabbed his little brother's hand and just held on to it."