A "miracle baby" has returned to the hospital where she was born three months premature to thank the staff who saved her life.
Lorraine Che was cared for on the Oliver Fisher Neonatal Baby Unit at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham when she was born in September 2005.
She weighed just 850g when her mum Jenny gave birth to her at just 26 weeks and spent three months in hospital before she could take her home.
However, 18 years on Lorraine is now in Year 13 studying A-levels in maths, computer science and IT at Folkestone School for Girls.
To mark World Prematurity Day today, she returned to the ward after being invited to meet consultant neonatologist, Dr Aung Soe, and senior advanced neonatal nurse practitioner Alison Youdale - both of whom looked after her at the time.
Lorraine explained: “It was amazing to meet Dr Soe and Alison and to be able to thank them both personally.
"It really is down to them, and the other staff who were working on the unit who took care of me and stood by me, that I am alive today.”
The NHS describes premature labour as happening before the 37th week of pregnancy, with about eight out of 100 babies born this way.
Lorraine's mum, Dr Jenny Teke, who is head of research and innovation at Medway Maritime, was with her daughter during the visit.
The married mum-of-two, from Ashford, added: “I was anxious, scared, stressed and overwhelmed when Lorraine went on to the unit.
"Four days later she was transferred to King’s College Hospital for open bowel surgery.
"I really didn’t think she would make it, but she did and nine days later she was transferred back to the unit.
“When I finally got to take her home in December 2005, it was surreal and I just couldn’t stop cuddling her - it was one of the best days of my life.
"For a long time she was called 'little Lorraine' or 'miracle baby.'
"She really wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Dr Soe, Alison and all of the other staff on the unit.
"The care they provided to both of us was amazing. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for us.”
Meanwhile Dr Soe paid tribute to Lorraine, as well as his team who continue to care for premature babies today.
“It was a great honour and a very special moment to meet Lorraine and find out about the person she has become," Dr Soe acknowledged.
“We have a great team here at the Oliver Fisher Neonatal Unit.
“It’s thanks to a highly-skilled group of medical and nursing colleagues who provided the care Lorraine needed 18 years ago, that she has gone on to live a full and happy life – just like so many other preterm babies we have cared for over the years.”
As part of the unit’s celebrations to mark the awareness day, 15 babies, who were born at less than 30 weeks and cared for on the unit last year, were invited to a special graduation ceremony, during which Lorraine and her mum spoke about their experiences.
Lorraine, who uses hearing aids due to being moderately deaf in her right ear and severely deaf in her left ear, added: “Mum and I both wanted to share our experiences with other parents who have babies who have gone through similar situations like me.
"It is to inspire them and importantly to show them being premature, and disabled, should not stop their child from achieving their dreams.”
The hospital’s clock tower will be illuminated in purple this evening to mark the awareness day.