Beautiful little fighters Martha and Hope McNeill have given their parents the best festive gift – after a year of turmoil.
The tots arrived nine weeks early but are now back home in time for Christmas.
The premature twins have helped to bring 2015 to an end with smiles and happiness – after it began in the most horrendous of circumstances.
Loie McNeill’s mum Margaret Sheridan was killed when a large sign fell on her at Waterstones bookstore in Blackpool as she locked up on January 12.
The 68-year-old, from Singleton, died at the scene.
But almost 12 months on, the memory of Loie’s mum lives on with the birth and survival of her two “cheeky” daughters.
From the delivery right through to their discharge I could not ask for a better team to look after us all - and what an incredible experience it has been.Loie McNeill
Loie said she and her husband Mark had named one of their daughters Martha in memory of Margaret.
Little Martha and her twin sister Hope were born at just 31 weeks into Loie’s pregnancy on November 3 at Blackpool Victoria Hospital – the due date was originally December 18.
Loie said: “The name Martha reminded me of my mum’s name.
“Losing my mum, you lose that support. They are my first babies. You would normally ask your mum so many questions. The nurses have taken part of that role and have supported me through everything.
“They have helped me in so many ways with Hope and Martha. They have been amazing. We’ve been lucky to be at this hospital. It has been wonderful.”
Loie, 30, who works as an accountant for the NHS in Lancaster and Mark, 42, who works in construction and as a photographer in Blackpool, got a huge surprise when their twins arrived nine weeks earlier than predicted.
Loie, a popular former worker at The Taps in Lytham, said: “I had just come in for a scan. They took my blood pressure which was higher than expected and they kept me in overnight. Our twins were delivered naturally the next day.”
Martha weighed 3lbs and 5oz when she was born and Hope weighed 3lbs and 14oz.
Mark said: “The wonderfully calm midwives made the whole potentially scary experience far less nerve-wracking.
“Loie had a natural birth and when the babies arrived the midwives and paediatricians worked like clockwork and with such skill - they made our baby daughters and my wife very safe.
“Over the four weeks following the birth our girls, they spent time on the Special Care Baby Unit and we visited them every day and were eventually given the chance to stay over in the hospital as they became stronger.
“I have the utmost respect for all of the staff on the unit, including the breast feeding team and the students who helped out.
“They acted like parents to our princesses, helping them develop and grow, putting our minds at ease and teaching us how to care for our premature babies.
“From the delivery right through to their discharge I could not ask for a better team to look after us all - and what an incredible experience it has been.”
The Warton couple were delighted to take Hope and Martha home on Friday, December 4.
Loie’s dad Ian and her sister Liane and husband Dominic, who live in Brighton, will spend Christmas in Warton with Loie, Mark and the twins.
Loie said: “Hope and Martha are my dad’s first grandchildren. He is over the moon.
“They have a step-sister called Maisy who is six-years-old. She is very happy and excited.
“Our twins are so beautiful and very cheeky. I feel excited and very blessed to have them.
“I’m delighted that they will be home for Christmas.”
Mark added: “The girls are now five weeks old and it is mummy and daddy’s job to look after them but we know the team at Blackpool Victoria Hospital are only a phone call away at any time of the day and that is so reassuring for us.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
A four-day inquest into Mrs Sheridan’s death is scheduled for March 8. An investigation is ongoing.