Miracle triplets celebrate festive fifth birthday
The miracle Irish siblings who are in Guinness Book of Records as the world's earliest surviving triplets are set to celebrate their festive fifth birthday on Christmas Day.
Little Lucy, Ethan and Matt O'Rourke all weighed just over 1lb (450g) when they arrived at Cork University Maternity Hospital at 6pm on December 25 in 2012.
The little O'Rourkes, from Clashmore in Waterford, have been officially written into the record books as the tiniest triplets in the world after arriving an incredible 113 days early.
Their dad, Pa O'Rourke, still looks back in wonder at the size of his two sons and daughter when they came into the world at 23 weeks and six days weighing less than half a bag of sugar.
He said: "I remember my hand could cover Ethan. There is a picture where my whole palm covers him. You could just see his head - that's how small he was. "When I see the pictures of their little blankets in the incubator, which I think were teddy bear blankets, you think of it straight away."
Their hands were so tiny they could fit through their Dad's wedding ring. He said he has returned with the triplets to the neo-natal unit in Cork where medics nursed the siblings back to full health against all the odds.
"It shows there is hope. I come across people on chatrooms on Facebook who ask questions about what happens when they get home.
"I was chatting to a lady over in America and she had 23-week triplets. They are all in play school now and will be going to school in September."
And now they are preparing to celebrate on the double on Christmas Day with Santa's presents in the morning and their birthday party in the evening.
"They will be five this year," he said laughing. "They know Santy is coming and they know it's their birthday too. We have Christmas in the morning and their birthday in the evening."
They made their traumatic arrival into the world on Christmas Day five years ago when their mother Pamela was just 23 weeks and 6 days pregnant - all just weighing over 1lb.
The three babies all battled through chronic lung disease and were resuscitated on a number of occasions by the neo-natal staff at Cork University Hospital.
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.
"It's amazing what they can do up there," Pa said.
"It was all hands-on deck 24/7. That day was crazy. The two boys were there for seven months."
He said the triplets are now aware of their premature arrival into the world.
"They see the pictures and say 'Aw we were tiny'."
Last year, Matt had a minor heart operation and Ethan is getting an operation on his head next year as his plates fused early, but their Dad says that should be the end of the medical treatment.
And the Waterford Dad said he and his wife Pamela will have another new edition to the family next year.
He said the doctor carrying out the eight-week scan on his pregnant wife in recent weeks knew all about the arrival of the triplets into the world nearly five years ago.
"When I told him we had triplets Christmas Day, he said, 'oh you're the triplets'. He knew about us. He said, 'ye messed up a lot of Christmas dinners that day'."