Rugby star's agony at loss of his baby twins
Exeter Chiefs player Chris Budgen has spoken of his trauma at losing twin boys after they were born prematurely.
His wife Tina went into labour after just 23 weeks, with Taylor passing away after nine hours and Rhys fighting on for nine days before he also died.
Budgen, 39, said asking the doctors not to continue treating Rhys was the toughest thing he had done in his life.
But he has thanked his teammates for the support they have given him and his family over the past few weeks.
He was due to be a replacement against Leicester in the Aviva Premiership on September 29 when he got a call to say Tina had gone into labour at the family home in Tidworth, Wiltshire. He headed to the neonatal intensive care unit at the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton instead.
"We had the 20-week scan and found out the sex of the babies then three weeks later she went into an early labour," said Budgen.
"The consultant said he was going to send her straight across to Southampton because they didn't know if they could save them or not.
"Rhys was born first and they didn't give him much hope but he was a fighter, he was fighting straight away.
"A couple of hours later Taylor arrived but he lived for nine hours. They could have performed a miracle operation on him if he was a bit bigger and a bit older but it's a very painful procedure.
"We had to let him go and that was one of the hardest things to deal with because Tina had to go in for an operation and when she had fully recovered we had to drop the bombshell on her. "She spent some time with Taylor before he went and he went on his terms in her arms.
"Rhys was still surviving and fighting on. On the Monday they told us some bad news, that he had a bleed on the brain, and that rocked us.
"In the afternoon he started reacting to the medicine he was getting and was coming through but the following Monday things took a turn for the worse. The odds were stacked against him and it was the hardest decision you're ever going to have to make to tell the doctors to stop fighting. In the ten days he was alive he brought a lot of happiness to us. He had his own character and we've got some good pictures of him."
Budgen returned to action with the Chiefs a week after Tina gave birth, appearing off the bench in the win against Harlequins. Last weekend, when he was again a replacement in the Heineken Cup match against Leinster, his teammates wore black armbands on their jerseys as a mark of respect.
Budgen is grateful for all the support people at the club have given him, Tina and son Dylan, 14. "The boys and the staff down here have helped us out a lot," said Budgen. "The good thing is I have the rugby to get on with things.
"I would not wish what we went through on anyone. If your kid gets hurt falling off their bike you can fix them up or take them to A&E and get them patched up but what happened to us is out of your hands and you can't do anything for them. You feel helpless.
"The biggest thanks has to go to the doctors and nurses in the neonatal unit at the Princes Anne Hospital," he said.