There were two very special little people waiting to greet Dunstable teacher Thom Darby as he crossed the finishing line at the Love Luton half marathon this weekend – his miracle twins Caitlin and Daniel.
“I was doing it for them and they were there for me,” he smiled.
The Manshead sixth form head and history master hopes to raise £2,000 for the Luton&Dunstable neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as a huge thank you for all they did after his babies were born at just 23 weeks – a week before accepted viability.
The tiny tots weighed only 2lb 12oz between them and their chances of survival were put at 10 per cent.
But they’ll be celebrating their first birthday on November 9 and Thom, 34, still gets emotional thinking of the circumstances surrounding their birth.
“My wife Kayleigh and I never thought they’d make it,” he admitted. “We were talking abut their funeral arrangements before they were even born.”
But make it they did – thanks to the dedicated and caring NICU team. Not only that but they’re a dynamic, thriving duo.
“They’re both trying to sit up and they’re eating us out of house and home,” their proud father beamed.
“Caitlin is quite laidback. She giggles all the time and finds everything funny.
“She came off oxygen in July and the hole in her heart closed in August. We were worried she might have to have surgery so that was such a relief.
“Daniel is more serious but he’s still a happy little boy.
“They only really cry when they’re tired or hungry. They’re very well behaved and we’re very lucky.”
He added: “People call them our twin miracles. They’re doing exactly as they should be doing, but we would never have believed it this time last year.
“It’s been amazing to see their development, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”
The couple, who live in Round Green, started fundraising as soon as they brought Caitlin and Daniel home in April.
Thom said at the time: “We could buy cakes, chocolates, flowers and cards but it would never be enough.
“The way the staff, nurses and doctors treated us, our babies and families was just so special and personal.” They’re hoping to raise money for a Cerebral Function Monitor (CFM) for the NICU.
Thom – a member of Stopsley Striders – decided to take part in the half marathon in spite of injuring his knee.
He said: “Lots of people came out to watch and I did it in one hour and 50 minutes which was quite good. But my dodgey knee was quite painful towards the end.”
His sixth form pupils had a fundraising drive of their own, selling sweets and having a non-uniform day.
Thom said Kayleigh, a family worker at St Matthew’s Primary in High Town, has decided to become a full-time mum.
He added: “The twins have changed our lives completely. They mean everything to me, it puts everything else into perspective.”