A miracle twin from South Shields is helping to give other premature babies a fighting chance – and prove that being born early is not a ‘life sentence to failure’.
Peter and Eric Henriksen were born 11 weeks early at South Shields’ Ingham Infirmary in September 1945.
Doctors thought it was most unlikely the twins, who weighed less than 4lb between them, and their mum Jane would survive.
However, they did against all the odds, and left hospital 11 weeks later - on their due birth date.
Peter, now 71, is backing the charity Tiny Lives, which supports premature and sick newborn babies and their families on the Neonatal Unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle.
He regularly donates to the charity, and wants to use his story as a way of inspiring parents of premature babies.
I just want to get the message out there to parents that their child being born prematurely isn’t some kind of life sentence to failurePeter Henriksen
The retired chartered accountant, who now lives in Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, said: “When Eric and I were born, it was virtually unheard of for twins born at 28 weeks to survive. But, thanks to medical advances and the support provided by Tiny Lives, babies can be born at just 23 weeks and go on, like Eric and I, to live long and happy lives.
“Being born very, very small doesn’t have to prejudice you in life, and I am evidence of that.
“I just want to get the message out there to parents that their child being born prematurely isn’t some kind of life sentence to failure.”
Tragically, Eric died at the age of just 44.
He was the younger twin by 15 minutes, weighing 2lb 2oz, while Peter was 1lb 12oz.
The pair lived with their family in South Shields, firstly on the Lawe Top and then on Beach Road, before moving to London, initially to go to university.
They were considered slow developers for much of their early life, and went to Harton Infants, Harton Junior School, Cleadon Park Secondary School and South Shields Technical Grammar School for Boys.
The twins went on to excel, though, graduating from the London School of Economics and having successful careers, with Eric running medical schools and Peter working in finance and management, while he has also run businesses.
Peter, who settled in Northumberland in the 1990s, added: “Back then, there was none of the sophisticated medicines, materials and equipment they have now, so parents shouldn’t be dismayed if their child is born early. It’s possible for them to go on to have very successful and happy lives.”