A family has opened up about one of the most harrowing moments of their lives in a bid to ease the pain of others who will go through the same.

Tenille and Mitch James, 44, fell pregnant the night they got engaged and, the night before the first ultrasound, the now 31-year-old had a dream it would be twins.

Her husband was told not to joke about it but her dream ended up being a premonition. The couple, who had an elder daughter Kennedy, were about to become a family of five.

Tenille told news.com.au that her husband believed she was joking when she called him on a fishing trip to share the news.

Her pregnancy was straight forward. Like many expectant mothers she had morning sickness and was tired but besides that she was relatively healthy.

At 35 weeks, she went into early labour – which is pretty common when a woman is giving birth to twins.

“Andie was born first and, when she was born, she had a condition called pulmonary hypertension, which is when the baby’s heart and lungs don’t adjust to the air when they’re outside the womb,” the Townsville woman said.

Andie was quickly sent to the NICU while Harley, her twin brother, was born.

“We were just completely caught off-guard. To be honest, we were sort of naive. We didn’t understand what was happening in that moment,” she said about her newborn being in the NICU.

“And it wasn’t until sort of later that night, when Andie was in the NICU, intubated and put into an induced coma to save her life that we understood the severity of what was going on.”

She said that she was wheeled into the unit and she was told “we’ll pass her to you when she goes” but their little girl fought and she miraculously made it through the night.

Andie couldn’t be held by her parents until she was six days old and it was more than five weeks before she could go home.

She was given an oxygen tank to be on at home for six months as breathing, eating and sleeping was a lot for her to handle.

However, she was soon recovering well. She had all her specialist checks and the family were taking her to different kinds of treatments to improve her health.

“She was given a perfect bill of health. She was really well and thriving, starting to meet milestones and was just happy,” Tenille said. “Everything was back on track.”

Andi loved dancing to Lizzo with her mum, cuddles from grandma, and dogs – she was developing a happy and vibrant personality.

Three days after a paediatrician gave her a clean bill of health, the family were having a normal Saturday morning. Harley had been in the room with Tenille because he was restless but Andie had slept through the night.

“I went to check on her and offer her a bottle but she didn’t want it. I got her out of the cot and changed her nappy,” she said.

“She gave a bit of a funny cry but nothing super unusual. About half an hour later she went to sleep on my shoulder.”

Tenille tried to rouse her daughter away but she didn’t move. She tried again but Andie didn’t budge.

“I picked her up and she just flopped back in my arms and she’d stopped breathing,” Tenille said

“I just yelled to my husband to call triple-0 and started CPR. When the paramedics came they did everything they could to work on her. But it was just over, she stopped breathing and couldn’t be resuscitated.”

The couple travelled to the hospital with Andie, who was just nine months old when she passed away, as paramedics did everything they could to revive her.

Tenille said it was a “blur” and, unsure of what had happened, went into protective mode about Harley.

The devastated parents were then forced to tell their other children that their sister would never come home, her death being classified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

In 2020, 79 children under the ages of one died from SIDS and other undetermined causes.

“We are a very close knit family, and we have a great relationship with our kids,” she said, adding the couple were honest with Kennedy, now seven, about Andie’s earlier health struggles.

She said while Andie’s death was an insurmountable pain it was made to hurt even worse when they had to share the news of what happened with their children, choosing a coffin, attending Andie’s funeral and even running into people they knew who would as “how are the twins” as they hadn’t heard the news.

But in the time since, the family has healed and they hold Andie in their heart with everything they do. Each night when Harley, now two, and Kennedy go to bed they wish their sister a goodnight.

The tragedy and the support that followed is why the family has thrown their weight into supporting Red Nose Day, because the support and counselling helped them as a family and they want to shine light on having these important conversations and raising awareness.

The family are aiming to be the top fundraisers for the year, after already smashing their goal of $30,000.

“I suppose [I just want people to] have empathy and to be grateful for every day as nothing in life is promised,” she said.

”You need to live each day to the fullest and appreciate your children, appreciate your families.”

She added prevention and research was vital in this space.

The 35th annual Red Nose Day will be held on Friday 11 August. To support the James family’s fundraising for Red Nose click here.



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By Rahul

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