IRELAND’S tiniest triplets – born weighing just over one pound - celebrated their first birthday yesterday after surviving against all the odds.
Little Lucy, Ethan and Matt O’Rourke are believed to be the most premature triplets in the world after being born last Christmas Day - 16 weeks and one day premature.
The miracle babies, from Clashmore in Co. Waterford, all weighed over one pound in weight when they arrived at 6pm on December 25 last year but now have all tipped the scales at a bouncing stone.
The adorable siblings feature in the December page of the Look How Far We’ve Come charity calendar of the tiny babies who went through the neo-natal ward in Cork University Hospital over the past year.
Their father said they would be celebrating their first birthday over the festive season back in the neo-natal ward with the nurses who cared for them for the first six months of their lives.
“Last Christmas was very different,” said Pat O’Rourke.
“We were going around in a daze.
“We are going to bring them back in to the neo-natal ward to see the nurses. We never could have made it if it wasn't for everyone in Cork University Maternity Hospital.
“The nurses nearly thought they were their own because they were there so long. We can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for us.”
The babies have survived against incredible odds and are now thriving at home with their parents in their Waterford home.
“The first two or three weeks we were in shellshock,” said their Dad. “When they were born they had no lungs at all and the machine was breathing for them.
“At the start it was hour by hour for the first week or two and then it went day by day for another four or five weeks and then it was week by week. Gradually then you were building your hopes up.”
Their Dad said the first two months of their lives was the hardest as they were unable to hold their babies.
“It was two months before we got to hold them which was hard on us, especially as we were seeing other parents around us holding their babies.”
Ethan and Matt were born naturally while Lucy was delivered by emergency caesarean section before they were whisked straight into intensive care, where they underwent 18 blood transfusions between them during their six months stay.
They all fought through chronic lung disease but they finally all came home in July - 212 days after they were born at 23 weeks and six days.
The Look How Far We’ve Come calendar – photographed by specialist newborn photographer Ann Marie Collins - is the brainchild of Linda Good, the mother of identical twins who weighed just over a pound when they were born last January in Cork University Maternity Hospital.
The dad of the O’Rourke triplets said he is delighted his sons and daughter are featuring on the calendar which gives hope to worried parents of premature babies in the unit.
He said he can’t believe his children were so tiny when he looks back at pictures of their delicate shapes in their incubators.
“They are up on 16 pounds or over a stone in weight. When you see the pictures you’re saying God Almighty it’s not possible.”
Their Dad is currently waiting for the Guinness Book of Records to confirm they are the most premature triplets to have survived in the world.
“They were 113 days early and the Guinness Book of Records think they have triplets born 108 days early but our triplets would be (five days) earlier.
“They have all the paperwork and the details and it is being processed. They were 16 weeks plus a day early. It’s amazing.”
The three tots now weigh up to 16 pounds each and are “full of mischief”.
“They are three different personalities. Lucy is a bit of terror. She is stuck in everything. Lucy and Matt are rolling. Ethan is still doing all he should be doing but he is a bit behind them
“They start laughing at each other and they would be swinging off each other the whole time
“The picture catches them bang on. Ethan would be half shocked looking the whole time. Matt is just up to mischief the whole time and Lucy is the same way. I’d say Lucy will be a handful.”
And he said he is considering celebrating their birthday on the date they were due to arrive when they get older.
He said: “We might go to their original birthday on April 17th. It would be kind of a bit unfair if they didn’t.”
The money raised from the calendar will go to buying a new take-home breast pump which they give to new mothers inside in the neo-natal unit and towards the refurbishment of the Ladybird children’s ward.
The calendar is on sale for €10 in outlets across Cork which are listed on www.facebook.com/neo_grads or to donate directly onto: www.mycharity.ie/event/neo_grads