Tiny triplets born at 23 weeks and given little hope of survival have hit a major milestone as they started school last week.
Lucy, Ethan and Matt O’Rourke, from Waterford, Ireland, were born 113 days early and were the world’s smallest surviving triplets.
The close siblings have astounded doctors by showing few long-term effects from their very premature delivery.
Born on Christmas Day 2012, each weighing just over one pound, and so small their hands could fit through a wedding ring, Lucy, Ethan and Matt battled with chronic lung disease.
Each had to be resuscitated on several occasions by neonatal staff at Cork University Hospital, and they all needed a ventilator to help them breathe.
But almost six years on they have a near clean bill of health.
Their dad Pat said: “Matt and Lucy are fine. Ethan got diagnosed with epilepsy, but it was only one small fit he had. Apart from that he is fine.”
Mr O’Rourke spoke of his pride at seeing the triplets walk through the school gates for the first time, and marvelling at how far his children had come.
He said: “Little did we know we would ever get this far. It is a long way from that day in 2012.”
In Great Britain it is legal to abort babies up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if the child is thought to have a disability – which has been known to include minor disabilities such as a cleft palate.