Battling Dillan Young today celebrates the 18th birthday his devoted family feared he would never see.
The Houghton teen was born at just 26 weeks into his mum Ashley’s pregnancy on July 4 1998, weighing a tiny 1lb 2oz.
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.
The tot’s head was the size of a satsuma while his fingers were as thin as matchsticks.
With the odds against Dillan lasting even just a few days, he fought off chronic lung infections and had four operations and two blood transfusions during his recovery.
The latest milestone was celebrated with a surprise party at Glendale Social Club on Friday night for the apprentice painter and decorator, of Chilton Moor.
“He’s our miracle boy and we are proud as punch of what he has achieved,” said Ashley, 39, who is also mum to Dillan’s little sister Lacey, seven.
“When he was born we were told he could have cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome, but thankfully nothing like that has happened and he’s been able to lead a normal life.
“He’s doing really well working for Marshall’s Painting and Decorating and studying at New College in Durham where he’s just done his second year.
“Dillan has even won student of the year for the second year students at the college.
“He’s doing his driving test in a few weeks so hopefully he’ll pass that too.”
Ashley added that she and Dillan’s dad, 37-year-old window cleaner Tony, have always said that former Kepier Academy pupil Dillan is an inspiration to other parents who have a prematurely born babies that they can survive and recover.
Despite being on life support for the first five months of his life, Dillan went from strength to strength after stunning medics and coming off the oxygen machine three years earlier than expected, aged just two.
Although he is deaf and has had to have therapy on his voice box, the huge Sunderland AFC fan has a life as normal as his friends do.
“Dillan is living proof that children born early can have a normal life,” said Ashley, who was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and Hellp syndrome 24 weeks into her pregnancy with her son.
She added: “Dillan turning 18 is a huge milestone for us and know he’ll go on and have a great life.”