A miracle baby born weighing just 1lb 3oz has celebrated turning 18.
When Daniel Hockaday was born 13 weeks prematurely at Hartlepool General Hospital, medics warned parents Alison and Joe that the likelihood of him surviving was slim.
Eighteen years on, Daniel, from Wingate, is thriving.
Although he continues to battle health problems, including a heart condition, he is going from strength to strength in other areas.
Daniel attends East Durham College, in Peterlee, works part-time as a lifeguard and recently passed his driving test.
His parents are ‘bursting with pride’.
He has achieved so much, though, and I’m bursting with pride looking at him nowAlison Hockaday
Alison, 52, of North Road East, Wingate, said: “When Daniel was born, we were told he wouldn’t make it.
“They asked us four times in the hospital if we would like a Christening, but I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t give up on him.
“He ended up in an incubator for four months and in hospital for five months.
“He has been in and out of hospital over the last 18 years because he has had educational problems, health problems and genetic problems.
“He has achieved so much, though, and I’m bursting with pride looking at him now.
“I would go through every bit of pain and worry again.
“Daniel is our miracle baby, and I hope that his story inspires other parents of premature babies.”
Daniel was a miracle baby in more ways than one, as Alison and Joe had recently been told they were unable to have children when she fell pregnant.
His 18th birthday was an emotional occasion for the family, with Daniel – who works as a part-time lifeguard at Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre, in Durham – telling of how his mum cried after he woke up.
The former Academy at Shotton Hall pupil said: “It was an emotional day for us, particularly my parents.
“They have helped me so much and I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done over the last 18 years.
“My mum was crying when I woke up on my birthday because it was obviously a big occasion.
“I just hope I can carry on making my family proud.”
Having already qualified as a lifeguard, Daniel is also working towards qualifications in gym instructing and management, while he already has coaching and swimming certificates.
He is now on a performing arts and music course at East Durham College, and dreams of becoming a full-time lifeguard in the future.
Mum Alison – who wasn’t able to see Daniel during the first five days of his life as he was transferred between various hospitals – has paid tribute to her family for their support over the last 18 years.
She added: “My sister, Ann Robertson, and her husband John have been a huge help, as has my husband Joe.
“We’re a very close family and I couldn’t have got through it without them.
“Daniel has a very bright future ahead of him and, although he has heart problems and various health problems, but doesn’t let them get him down.
“Nothing gets him down.”