Ellie Reader is a real fighter.
At just a few hours old, she was battling for her life – born 14 weeks premature, weighing just 1lb 14oz, and no bigger than her mother’s hand.
But tomorrow, Ellie, of Park Road, Blackpool, turns 21.
The special landmark birthday will mean even more for her and her family than for most, as her parents Denise and Billy went through the agony of not knowing if their little baby would make it through.
She spent most of the first three months of her life in hospital.
At just four days old, Ellie suffered a collapsed lung and at four weeks, was taken by ambulance, under police escort, from Blackpool Victoria Hospital to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, for emergency heart surgery.
But now Ellie, who works as a sales assistant, has put her difficult start in life behind her and is living life to the absolute full, with a clean bill of health.
The former St John Vianney and St Mary’s High School pupil marked her special birthday with a weekend away in Amsterdam and has a family gathering and meal planned.
Ellie, who enjoys socialising with friends and going to the gym, said: “I’m really looking forward to celebrating my 21st with my family.
“We always have a bit of a joke in my family that my mum tells everybody the story about when I was born and what happened.
“She’s told me about it of course and I can’t believe it happened. I do feel lucky to be here.
“I feel grateful, especially when you see other babies’ stories on TV and in the news.
“I’m fit and well and healthy.”
Proud mum Denise Reader said Ellie’s 21st birthday was a landmark occasion she once thought they might never see.
She said: “She was so tiny when she born, you could see every vein in her body, she was almost transparent. She could just fit in my hand.
“She suffered a collapsed lung, then had to have heart surgery, but she just fought through it all.
“It all happened so fast at the time.
“Gradually, she just kept getting better and stronger and now she is healthy – you wouldn’t know about her start in life.
“At some points, we didn’t think we would be here, it’s a big milestone.
“What’s lovely is the staff at Blackpool Vic still remember her.
“I occasionally bump into some of them and they always ask after her, after all this time. They were wonderful.
“She is my little star, she’s such a lovely young woman, we feel very lucky to have her.”