TODAY is the day Dillan Young’s parents thought their “miracle” boy would never see.
Born just 26 weeks into mum Ashley’s pregnancy and weighing just 1lb 2oz, one of the smallest babies ever to be delivered, medics gave the tot little chance of surviving.
Now after operations and blood transfusions, football-mad Dillan, of Chilton Moor, near Fence Houses, reaches his milestone 16th birthday today fit and healthy as he prepares to leave school.
“He’s a miracle,” said Ashley, 37.
“We never thought we’d see this day but it’s here and we are so proud of him.”
The odds were stacked against Dillan living beyond even a few days when he came into the world on July 4 1998.
Ashley was rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for his birth and went into a coma after suffering from a rare blood disorder as he was born.
Brave Dillan fought off chronic lung infections and had four operations and two blood transfusions during his recovery.
“Because I was unwell too, I was the last one to hold him after he was born,” added Ashley, who was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and Hellp syndrome 24 weeks into her pregnancy with her son.
“Dillan’s head was the size of a satsuma and his fingers were like matchsticks.
“The doctors said at first he wouldn’t live past a few days, but he’s proved them all wrong because he’s a fighter and he pulled through.”
Despite being on life support for the first 19 weeks of his life, Dillan went from strength to strength after surprising his doctors and coming off the oxygen machine three years earlier than expected, when he was just two.
Although he is deaf and has had to have therapy on his voice box, the huge Black Cats fan has a life as normal as his pals.
Today, Dillan, who is a cousin of former Middlesbrough and Swansea City goalkeeper David Knight, from Houghton, is celebrating his birthday with his mum, dad Tony, 35, a window cleaner, and little sister Lacey, five.
Top of his wish list was a new phone and the new Sunderland away shirt, which he opened this morning.
He has recently completed his GCSE studies at Houghton Kepier Academy and already has a place on a course to become a painter and decorator at New College Durham.
“We are delighted he’s managed to get on a course at a mainstream college already,” said Ashley.
“He’s loved by everyone and we’ve got to thank the RVI, the Royal and Kepier for their help with him.”
Ashley says she wants to use Dillan’s story to give hope to families with a prematurely born child.
She said: “I see people going through what we did and it’s just absolutely tragic.
“They are all little fighters and Dillan showed that you can upset the odds no matter what you are told.”