'Miracle' twins ready for first day in school
Identical twins who were given little chance of a normal life when they were born have defied the odds and are now starting school.
Pippa and Sophia Devane (5) were born just 24 weeks into the pregnancy of their mother, Debbie Devane.
She said she never thought she would be sending her daughters to a mainstream school, but the twin sisters will start their first day of school at St Joseph's, in Mountmellick, Co Laois, on Friday.
For their mother, it is another major milestone she is grateful for.
"When we were in hospital, even when the doctor used to mention the word 'home', you couldn't imagine that it would ever happen. But before we knew it, there was the Christening, first birthday, first day at playschool... it is such an achievement for them to be starting a mainstream school, and I'm so proud," she said.
Doctors told Ms Devane she would require surgery for Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome when she was at 21 weeks.
Twin to Twin occurs when identical twins share a placenta and one receives more blood supply than the other.
Just three weeks later, she had an emergency C-section.
Sophia was born first, followed quickly by Pippa, who weighed only 500g.
"She was curled up like a little kitten," Ms Devane said.
From heart failure to being placed on a life support machine, the first few days after their birth were touch and go.
It has made this week all the more emotional for Ms Devane and her husband Gary. "It's a miracle that we're sending them to school, it all feels a bit surreal. I've three older boys in school and I was worrying that the girls were never going to get there, or be able to go to a mainstream school, now I'm worrying about them blending in," she said.
As a result of their complicated birth, Sophia is missing four fingers and Pippa is deaf, but Ms Devane said that doesn't stop them living a normal life. "The two of them are very positive little girls. They're so excited to get started," she said.