Heartbroken father reflects on the tragic death of his twins

A heartbroken father whose wife had a ‘textbook’ pregnancy with their twin sons has shared their devastation after one baby was stillborn and the second died just nine days later.  

Paul Masters, 34, and his wife Siobhan, also 34, had bought two cots and painted the nursery at their home in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, in anticipation of the arrival of their baby boys. 

But when the couple arrived at Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, for Siobhan’s planned Caesarean, they were given the earth shattering news that one of the babies, James, did not have a heartbeat. 

The other twin, Ryan, had a weak heartbeat when he was born and died nine days later in a hospice.   

Now Paul is sharing his story as he is raising money for the organisations that have supported him and Siobhan. Paul has pledged to run a mile a day for every day of 2021 to benefit Helen & Douglas House Hospice, The Ashfield Fund and SSNAP (Support for Sick Newborns And their Parents).

Paul Masters, 34, and his wife Siobhan Masters, 34, who live in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, are raising money for the charities who supported them after the passing of their twins James and Ryan. Pictured: Paul and Siobhan at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford with their baby Ryan

Paul Masters, 34, and his wife Siobhan Masters, 34, who live in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, are raising money for the charities who supported them after the passing of their twins James and Ryan. Pictured: Paul and Siobhan at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford with their baby Ryan

Paul Masters, 34, and his wife Siobhan Masters, 34, who live in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, are raising money for the charities who supported them after the passing of their twins James and Ryan. Pictured: Paul and Siobhan at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford with their baby Ryan

Ryan, pictured, had a weak heartbeat when he was born and died nine days later in a hospice

Ryan, pictured, had a weak heartbeat when he was born and died nine days later in a hospice

Ryan, pictured, had a weak heartbeat when he was born and died nine days later in a hospice 

when the couple arrived at Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, for Siobhan's planned Caesarean, they were given the earth shattering news that one of the babies, James, pictured, did not have a heartbeat. He was stillborn

when the couple arrived at Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, for Siobhan's planned Caesarean, they were given the earth shattering news that one of the babies, James, pictured, did not have a heartbeat. He was stillborn

when the couple arrived at Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, for Siobhan’s planned Caesarean, they were given the earth shattering news that one of the babies, James, pictured, did not have a heartbeat. He was stillborn

Paul and Siobhan discovered they were expecting twins in February 2020, when Siobhan was 11 weeks pregnant. 

‘We actually said on the way to the scan wouldn’t it be funny if we had twins,’ he recalled. Sharing my birthday with my triplet aunties it was always the family joke. 

‘However by the time we arrived for the scan we’d talked ourselves out of the possibility as Siobhan thought she would have more obvious signs if it was. 

‘When they did the scan and said “I have a surprise for you” I literally cried with excitement but then wanted to make sure that there wasn’t an unexpected 3rd which thankfully there wasn’t. 

‘When she confirmed they were also identical we just couldn’t believe it had actually happened to us. I think we were just in shock for about a week as were the close family we told.’

Identical twins are a high risk pregnancy and Siobhan was given fortnightly scans. However the pregnancy was ‘textbook’ and medics said it was one of the most straightforward cases they had encountered. 

The family spent three days at the hospice before Ryan died at nine days old and the baby, who was named Ryan David after Siobhan's late father David, was able to meet his grandparents. Pictured, Siobhan with Ryan in the grounds of the hospice

The family spent three days at the hospice before Ryan died at nine days old and the baby, who was named Ryan David after Siobhan's late father David, was able to meet his grandparents. Pictured, Siobhan with Ryan in the grounds of the hospice

The family spent three days at the hospice before Ryan died at nine days old and the baby, who was named Ryan David after Siobhan’s late father David, was able to meet his grandparents. Pictured, Siobhan with Ryan in the grounds of the hospice 

Siobhan was booked for a planned C-section on 5 August 2020, at 36 weeks. The couple woke excited and were at the hospital for 7.30am.

‘It’s hard with twins to tell which one is moving but even as we sat in our bay there was movement,’ he recalled. 

‘I think this was actually the first time we weren’t worried going into hospital as we felt like we had finally made it and were about to meet our little boys. We literally had no idea what was about to unfold.’ 

Doctors listened for the heartbeats and were concerned when they could only detect one. Siobhan was taken for a scan and the couple were told the bigger of the twins, James’s, heart wasn’t beating. 

‘We looked at each other in shock only to hear the words “I’m so sorry” from the doctor,’ Paul said. 

‘We were also told Ryan’s heartbeat was low. Siobhan was rushed into theatre where we learned sadly James was born sleeping. 

Paul and Siobhan were able to make precious memories with their son Ryan at the hospice

Paul and Siobhan were able to make precious memories with their son Ryan at the hospice

Paul and Siobhan were able to make precious memories with their son Ryan at the hospice 

‘I waited alone for another 30 minutes for more news before I was told Ryan was still with us but in a poor condition. It was hard to take everything in and the fact he was still with us meant hopefully we would still get to take home one of our babies as losing two would have been even more awful.’ 

Ryan was transferred to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, where he was to be cooled for 48-72 hours to reduce any potential brain injury and was suffering multiple organ failure due to hypoxia. 

Thanks to the support of The Ashfield Fund, Paul and Siobhan were able to bring James with them to the Ashfield bereavement suite and spend some time with their son, while Ryan was being treated downstairs.  

Paul continued: ‘The medical team at the NICU were incredible. We knew after a few days just how serious Ryan’s condition was and the nurses were managing almost constant mini brain seizures which could have seen him pass away at any moment. 

‘It really was a rollercoaster for about five days until it became clear that Ryan’s injuries were just too bad and he just wasn’t going to be able to recover from some of them. 

‘We had to make the heartbreaking decision to let Ryan go and join his brother. However in his usual fighting way when the machines that were keeping him alive were turned off he kept breathing on his own. 

Paul said it's important to raise money for the charities because many of their sources of income have been impacted by the pandemic. Pictured: Paul and Ryan

Paul said it's important to raise money for the charities because many of their sources of income have been impacted by the pandemic. Pictured: Paul and Ryan

Paul said it’s important to raise money for the charities because many of their sources of income have been impacted by the pandemic. Pictured: Paul and Ryan

‘This became affectionately known as  “Ryan Time”. We were told babies normally pass away within minutes but occasionally it could be an hour or two. After 11 hours at 4.30am it became clear we needed a new plan and we would be transferred to Helen & Douglas House Hospice for palliative care.’

The family spent three days at the hospice before Ryan died at nine days old and the baby, who was named Ryan David after Siobhan’s late father David, was able to meet his grandparents. 

Paul continued: ‘We got to do those silly little things you always dream of as a parent, for me that was getting to read him story books, something I never thought I would get the chance to do. 

‘We also got to go for walks around the grounds in the royal pram donated by the Duchess of Kent and got to watch Disney movies in bed with him, which is where he finally passed away in our arms.’

Paul who has set up Running For The Boys on Facebook, added that he's running a mile a day throughout 2021 to raise awareness of child loss. Pictured: The couple with Ryan and his grandmothers

Paul who has set up Running For The Boys on Facebook, added that he's running a mile a day throughout 2021 to raise awareness of child loss. Pictured: The couple with Ryan and his grandmothers

Paul who has set up Running For The Boys on Facebook, added that he’s running a mile a day throughout 2021 to raise awareness of child loss. Pictured: The couple with Ryan and his grandmothers 

He continued: ‘To go from expecting to bring home two boys to having none is awful. We had painted the nursery, had two cots and it leaves a huge hole. We have been very lucky in the support from our families, ongoing support when we need it from Helen House and the support of each other. Even small things like them not getting to meet our little cat Fox. Some days are harder than others but the boys will always be part of our family.’

Paul is now raising money for the hospice, the Ashfield Fund, and SSNAP (support for sick newborn and their parents), which provided them with snacks while they were at Ryan’s bedside and a pram between to use on the journey to Helen House.

He added that he wants ‘something good’ to come from their children’s passing that also honours them and raises awareness of child loss. Paul has set up Running For The Boys on Facebook as a dedication to James and Ryan, as well as a fundraising page for donations.

He added: ‘With covid restrictions in place we knew it was limited in what we were allowed to do. I had never run before so the possibility of a marathon wasn’t really achievable, so we decided our aim was to keep running to keep the charities running, thus Running For The Boys was started. 

‘By aiming to run a mile a day for the whole of 2021, so 365 miles in 365 days, it was a challenge for a non-runner but also was very achievable and could keep raising the awareness for the whole year and most importantly help other families who would sadly be coming down the line after us.’

Paul has already surpassed his initial fundraising target of £1,000.   

For information and to donate to Running For The Boys, click here         

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