Born at just 24 weeks, Erin John showed she was a “real fighter” when she squeezed her mum’s finger in hospital and now, less than two years later, she’s at home and doing well.
Steven and Kylee John faced heartache when pregnant Mrs John was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease.
Then doctors decided to deliver the John’s twins at 24 weeks, and despite immense sadness later when Erin’s sister Sian died, Mr and Mrs John are delighted with Erin’s progress.
Increasing numbers of babies born at 24 weeks or earlier are surviving thanks to advances in care.
This has led to calls to lower the abortion limit which currently allows abortion up to 24 weeks in Britain.
Doctors feared neither of the John’s twins would survive when they were delivered prematurely to save their mother.
But now Mrs John can declare that her daughter “has a good appetite and she is catching up now with other babies of her age. We are so proud of her”.
She described her amazement as baby Erin clutched at her finger: “It was a remarkable moment. My husband Steven captured it on camera.
“It was as though she was holding on to me, telling me she wasn’t going to let go.”
Mrs John was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 23 weeks but her condition developed in to Hellp Syndrome, which can cause organ failure.
She said: “It was touch and go whether I would survive, so even though I was only 24 weeks pregnant, the doctors decided they had to deliver the twins to save me.”
Erin was delivered first, weighing only 1lb, followed by her smaller sister Sian at ten ounces.
Mrs John continued: “When I had recovered, I was wheeled down to see the twins and I just couldn’t believe how tiny they both were.
“Their skin was completely translucent – they just didn’t look like babies at all.
“The doctors told us right from the start that Sian wasn’t going to survive as she was just too tiny.”
Erin had to have an operation when she was six weeks old to close a duct in her heart, but she pulled through.
When the twins were two months old, the condition of Erin’s sister, Sian, went downhill. Mrs John said it was “heartbreaking”.
The doctors told her that it was only machines keeping Sian alive and there was nothing more they could do. She later died.
In April last year Erin had laser eye surgery to stop her from going blind as she had been born so early the blood vessels in her eyes hadn’t fully developed.
And then in November, 11 months after Erin was born, she was finally allowed to go home.
Mrs John said: “It was wonderful to finally be able to bring her home after all those months in hospital.
“She is still tiny for her age. She wears clothes for six to nine month old babies and she has to have physiotherapy to help her muscles develop but she is now sitting up, and starting to stand.”
Mrs John added: “She is one of the smallest babies ever to survive in Britain and she had a massive battle for survival. But she has come through it all – she may be tiny but she is a real fighter.”
Figures reported in April, from the NHS Information Centre, show that in 2008-09, some 3,836 children weighing under 2lbs 3oz (1kg) were born in England and Wales. That is a 115 per cent rise on 2006-07.
A spokesman for the ProLife Alliance said in response: “These statistics are yet more proof that more and more babies are being born very prematurely and surviving.”
In 2008 plans to liberalise the abortion laws failed in the House of Commons.