Look at her now! Girl born the size of a Coke can turning five

Demi Thanopoulou, who was born weighing less than a pound, turns five this month

Demi Thanopoulou, who was born weighing less than a pound, turns five this month - Credit: Archant/Laura Key

When tiny Demi Thanopoulou was born almost four months early, she weighed around the same amount as a can of coke.

Doctors told her parents that the fragile baby's fight was so tough that they ought to take her life just one hour at a time.

Now, almost 44,000 hours later and against all odds, the "little trooper" is thriving in school and approaching her fifth birthday.

Demi Thanopoulou was given little chance of survival after being born at just 24 weeks

Demi Thanopoulou was given little chance of survival after being born at just 24 weeks - Credit: Laura Key

The little girl - who was once around the size of a small guinea pig - has grown into an enthusiastic, tenacious schoolchild, who loves to socialise with her friends and goes dancing every Saturday.

Mum Laura Key, 36, was 21 weeks pregnant with her eldest child when complications meant she was admitted to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

The mother-of-two, from Watton, first noticed something was wrong when she began to experience heavy bleeding and after going into hospital for check-ups, she was kept in.

Three weeks later on June 20, 2017, Demi was born - exactly 24 weeks into her mother's pregnancy.

Demi Thanopoulou with her favourite bear which she was almost the same size as when she was born at

Demi Thanopoulou with her favourite bear which she was almost the same size as when she was born at 24 weeks. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

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At birth, the tiny tot weighed just 380g - less than a pound - and had to be immediately whisked off to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

It was not until Demi was more than a week old that Ms Key was able to hold her for the very first time, when doctors placed her on to her mother's chest.

Miss Key said: "When she was born her odds of survival were so low that we were constantly fearful we were going to lose her - I actually hesitated in registering her birth.

(L-R) Konstantinos Thanopoulos, Nikos Thanopoulos, Laura Key and Demi Thanopolou are celebrating Dem

(L-R) Konstantinos Thanopoulos, Nikos Thanopoulos, Laura Key and Demi Thanopoulou are celebrating Demi's fifth birthday after doctors gave her little chance of survival after being born premature. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

"She didn't cry - all I could hear was the faint beeps of a machine that I was told was her heartbeat.

"She was given five rescue breaths by the most amazing registrar and then intubated. We are eternally grateful to that doctor - and all the other staff involved in Demi's care.

"The journey was incredibly tough and every gram she put on gave us a little more hope.

"Demi as more than nine weeks old before I asked one of her consultants if they thought I could start looking for a pram - he just smiled and said 'I think you should start doing that'."

By the time Miss Key and partner Nikos Thanopoulos were able to finally take their first born home her due date - October 10 - had long passed.

Demi's foot measured only three cm when she was born at just 24 weeks, the family are now celebratin

Demi's foot measured only three cm when she was born at just 24 weeks, the family are now celebrating her fifth birthday - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

The day they finally took their child home was November 4, 2017, 137 days into her life. 

In this time she fought a catalogue of medical complications that came with her premature birth including collapsed lungs, heart conditions, a brain bleed and countless blood transfusions.

For the first five weeks of Demi's life, the family was put up at hospital accommodation just minutes away from where the tiny treasure was treated in NICU - by The Sick Children's Trust.

At 12 weeks old she was transferred to West Suffolk Hospital to resume treatment closer to home.

Demi Thanopoulou pictured with her favourite bear in ICU after being born at just 24 weeks

Demi Thanopoulou pictured with her favourite bear in ICU after being born at just 24 weeks - Credit: Laura Key

Miss Key said: "By the time we were able to take her home I felt institutionalised - every single day for that five months had been spent in hospital.

"She came home on oxygen and I was frightened about not having the hospital monitors we had been relying on for the past five months.

"She has had a lot of trips back and forth to hospital since but she refuses to let anything stop her from enjoying life - she's so positive."

While Demi's short life so far has not been without its challenges - she still has a host of respiratory issues - the Toftwood Infant School pupil refuses to let anything hold her back.

Demi Thanopoulou holding one of the items of clothing that swallowed her up when she was born premat

Demi Thanopoulou holding one of the items of clothing that swallowed her up when she was born premature at just 24 weeks.. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Miss Key added: "She's just so enthusiastic, she's our little soldier. She loves looking at all her things from when she was a baby - she loves being tiny and always has such a huge smile on her face."

Sixteen months later, Miss Key gave birth to her second child, three-year-old Konstantinos, whose arrival came without any of the complications of Demi's.

(L-R) Nikos Thanopoulos, Demi Thanopolou , Laura Key and Konstantinos Thanopoulos are celebrating De

Demi Thanopoulou, with dad Nikos Thanapoulos, mum Laura Key and younger brother Konstantinos, who has despite being more than a year younger has outgrown her - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

The HR worker for Norfolk Constabulary added: "When I was pregnant with Konstantinos obviously I was concerned that history could repeat itself.

"However I reached term - which shows not every pregnancy is the same.

"We have so much gratitude to all the NHS staff involved in Demi's care - I hope they understand how their skills and dedication saved our baby."

Determined to give something back to the hospital that saved her baby's life, Miss Key now volunteers for the Rosie Maternity and Neonatal Voices Partnership to help further improve services at the specialist maternity hospital at Addenbrookes. 

"Miracles can happen - and Demi is proof that they do," she added.

Demi's milestones

June 20, 2017: Born at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge

Five days old: Demi opens her eyes for the first time

Nine days old: Demi has her first cuddle with mum

13 days old: Demi's father holds her for the first time

August 3, 2017: Demi is put in clothes for the first time

Seven weeks old: Demi hits 1kg in weight

14 weeks old: Demi's first bath

October 10, 2017: Demi's due date

November 4, 2017: Demi finally goes home

September 6, 2021: Demi's first day of school

June 20, 2022: Demi turns five