SOME of the most premature twins to have ever survived celebrated their milestone first birthday this week.

Harley and Archie Garthwaite may be a year old, but they are still not much bigger than a newborn at 16lb and 13lb.

The twins were born when mother Hayley Kennedy was just 22 and a half weeks pregnant – something that often means a very slim chance of survival for most babies.

But Harley and Archie, from Hartlepool, are now thriving and have no long-term problems despite their ordeal.

“I just never expected them to survive,” said Miss Kennedy.

“People wanted to come and see them but I was like, no, there’s no point because they’re not going to pull through. But they’re amazing – they’re real little fighters.

Archie, who weighed just 1lb 4oz at birth, could have fitted his mother’s engagement ring around his leg. Harley was not much bigger at 1lb 6oz.

They have battled eye, heart and bowel problems, with numerous operations, to become the thriving pair they are today. The twins “real” age is six to seven months so they have just started on solid food – but are already managing to devour waffles.

They don’t yet sit up or crawl, but can shuffle around the floor lying on their backs.

Miss Kennedy said although Harley still needs oxygen, and is undergoing a minor operation tomorrow (Wednesday, June 19) to remove a hernia, both twins are happy, giggle, chatter to each other, and play.

Miss Kennedy, 20, and partner Billy Garthwaite, 21, were told to expect the worst when their babies were born 17 weeks early.

They both had holes in their hearts and required heart surgery at just two weeks old. They were kept alive on ventilators and needed more operations for bowel problems, oral problems and laser treatment to stimulate their underdeveloped eyes.

Miss Kennedy refused to leave the hospital in North Tees at Stockton for a month and a half – the only time she did she “hated it” – and pumped precious breastmilk to help the babies get the best possible nutrients, until the stress dried up her supply.

“It was an awful time,” she said. “I was adamant that they were not going to pull through because that is what we had been told. It was hard when Archie went up to Newcastle and Harley stayed at North Tees and they were in different places.

“Archie came home in September and Harley was allowed home in November and I suddenly realised they were going to do it.”

Now Miss Kennedy said the twins get attention wherever they go. “I can go shopping at 9 in the morning and I won’t get back until 4 in the afternoon because people fuss over them everywhere,” she said. “My friend said to me, I hate going shopping with you. But I don’t mind. They’re little miracles and I’m the proudest mother in Hartlepool.”