A premature baby given just a 30 per cent chance of survival has defied doctors by taking his first words.
Little Dennis Shoer(corr) was born 13 weeks early weighing just 1lb 5oz – less than a bag of sugar.
Medics warned even if he survived he would have a 50 per cent chance of brain damage.
But ‘Dinky Den’, as his parents nicknamed, him has exceeded all expectations and grown into a healthy 18 month-old.
Proud parents Laura, 34, and Dennis, 32, say they have only just exposed him to the life of a ‘normal’ child – and the toddler loves nothing more than rolling around in mud.
Dennis was delivered by emergency caesarean at Medway Hospital on January 28, just 27 weeks into the pregnancy.
Laura had not felt him move for a number of weeks and doctors found the amniotic fluid had drained and the placenta was not feeding him.
Hairdresser Laura, from Sondland, Kent, said when Dennis was born he looked like he had been “vacuum packed”.
Dennis has to be resuscitated at birth before being moved to intensive care where he spent 12 weeks in hospital.
The little fighter survived a bleed on the brain, pneumonia, an intestinal infection and viral meningitis and still has weak lungs.
Laura, who has a tattoo of Dennis’ hand and foot prints on her left arm, said: “When he came out he looked like a baby hedgehog as all his skin was screwed up and pink and it looked like he had been vacuum packed.
“I just could not take it in. Everyday was a constant battle with something different to deal with.”
During the first year of his life Laura was terrified Dennis could get ill and made visitors scrub their hands before coming to their home.
But after doctors said he should be encouraged to crawl around and play she began to relax.
Laura, who has returned to work part time, said: “I would not let people kiss him on the face.
“Now he rolls around in the mud and lives like a proper little boy but it’s taken me about a year.
“He wants to play with other children and my husband was just like let him do it.
“The doctors were most worried about his brain damage but he can speak and says ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’.
“I did not want him to be wrapped in cotton wool but I don’t know if he realises what he’s been through.”
Laura’s tattoo says “his little hands stole my heart and his little feet ran away with it”.
Laura and Dennis, 32, a school caretaker, are running a fun day to raise money for the four hospitals where baby Dennis was treatment.
All money raised will be split between the Oliver Fisher Premature Baby Unit at Medway Hospital, the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, St George’s University Hospital in London and the Early Birth Association in Brighton, Sussex.
Donations can be made towards the family’s campaign via another campaign on www.gofundme.com/wj29p4.