The Hillier Family

How BC Women's world-class expertise in treating twin to twin transfusion syndrome saved the lives of Abbey and Charley.

Kristin Hillier was only 23 weeks pregnant with twins Abbey and Charley when she suddenly started experiencing severe contractions. Fearing the worst, Hillier was immediately flown to Vancouver, and then transported to the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic at BC Women’s Hospital for emergency care.

“I was crying and very scared,” remembers Hillier. “But, there was a nurse, and she looked at me and said, ‘we are not having a birthday today,’ and her just saying that made me stop and think ‘okay, I’m in the right place, and they’re going to fix this.’”

An emergency ultrasound revealed that while Charley had too much fluid, Abbey had too little. The twins were suffering from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a condition where errant blood vessels in their shared placenta leads one twin to receive more fluid than the other. It’s a condition that requires immediate life-saving intervention.

With her unborn babies’ lives hanging in the balance, Hillier really was in the right place. Perinatologists Dr. Alain Gagnon and Dr. Tracy Pressey of BC Women’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic are specialists in treating complex conditions in unborn babies.

“Without surgery, twins who have this condition have a very slim chance of survival,” says Pressey. “The therapy we’re able to offer targets the cause of the problem, which is the vascular connection on the placenta.”

Gagnon and Pressey used a minimally invasive fetoscope to enter Hillier’s uterus and locate the problem blood vessels on the placenta. They then used a laser to cut the blood circulation between the twins so they could no longer exchange fluids.

Today, Abbey and Charley are happy, healthy, playful little girls. In gratitude for their daughters’ lives, the Hilliers made a donation for a special commemorative tile at BC Women’s. For Gagnon and Pressey, Abbey and Charley’s picture remains a daily reminder of the importance of the medical expertise they provide to moms and their unborn babies at BC Women’s Hospital.

Please make a donation to the BC Women's Hospital and help babies like Abbey and Charley.

By Ann Collette

Photography by Claudette Carracedo