With Slim Chance to Live, Twins Saved by Laser Surgery

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story happened in June 2014, but because it was so inspiring we decided to run it again on FTK.

Verena Cavalier’s twins were diagnosed with twin to twin transfusion syndrome while still in the womb, a condition that causes one twin to have greater blood volume than the other. It often leads to brain damage or death. Doctors told Verena that the boys only had a 33% chance to survive, even with in utero surgery.

But this isn’t a tragic story. It’s anything but — twins, Nathaniel and Joshua Cavalier, against all odds are still going strong. They’re now four months old, after being saved by laser surgery at 21 weeks gestation.

The twins were born after only 31 weeks in the womb, and only now have they reached the size of normal newborns. Both have fought off blood poisoning and meningitis in their short lives, but they continue to thrive.

Verena, a teacher living in Essex in the UK, underwent the life-saving surgery on the very same day she found out about the condition. It was spotted in the early stages during a routine scan at Southend Hospital.

Verena said:

“I was very lucky because it can develop very rapidly and I wasn’t due for another scan for a week, but my consultant said she would do it early as she was going on holiday.”She spotted signs of the condition and I was told to go to King’s College Hospital in London.

That was at noon and by 5pm I reached the hospital. They did an ultrasound and confirmed the condition.

He inserted a laser into my tummy and severed the connections between the babies to stop one baby taking too much from the other.

It was an awful decision to have to make because of the risk of the surgery, but there was no time to lose. The longer we waited, the higher the chance the babies could die or be brain damaged.”


Verena was conscious the whole time, watching the twins’ operation on a screen and praying for their lives.

The surgery was a success, but the doctors warned her not to get her hopes up. Their survival was still unlikely, to say the least. Verena, who had already had two miscarriages, was convinced she’d lose them.

Her water broke at 29 weeks into the pregnancy, but she didn’t go into labor for another two weeks — weeks that gave the twins vital extra time to develop before birth.

Nathaniel and Joshua were born on February 12 by caesarean section, both weighing just over 3 pounds.

Thanks to Southend Hospital’s neonatal unit, the twins have survived their premature birth, a case of blood poisoning, and potentially fatal stomach infections.

For the moment, things are only looking up for the Cavalier twins as they approach the four-month anniversary of their birth. They’re healthy and, not to mention, pretty adorable too.