They had come to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin with their parents, Veronica and Kevin Cassidy, to say thanks to the staff that cared for them.
Conor, Amy, Cian, Rory, and Dearbhail, now aged 13, are still very close and even at school tend to stay together. The children were delivered by caesarean section on August 16, 2001, at 25 weeks and four days. Each baby weighed just over a pound.
Overseeing the operation was a core team of 10 medical staff, led by the Rotunda’s former master, Dr Peter McKenna.
Advanced nurse practitioner Christine McDermott looked after Amy, the smallest at 600g. Her brother, Conor was the heaviest at a mere 765g.
“Amy was fairly lively and I remember spending the whole night trying to stop her pulling out her lines and pulling off her monitor pads,” said Christine.
Veronica said the children, who have started secondary school, were still quite dependent on each other. “You will always find them out together, even in school,” she said.
Being premature babies, they had a number of health issues. Dearbhail and Amy had laser eye surgery when they were six weeks old.
Cian had a stent inserted to drain fluid off his lungs and Dearhbail had a heart operation at three weeks. He also has cerebral palsy that affects his left side, but he is nonetheless doing very well.
Veronica said the children had not expected so much publicity when they arrived back at the hospital but were taking it in their stride.
“We are here to say thanks to the medical staff that looked after the children,” said Veronica. “Only for them they would not be here. This is a happy day,” she said.
Talking to the children is an immersive experience in itself. They agreed that Dearbhail was the quiet one, while Amy was loud, Conor was bossy, Rory was sporty, and Cian was grumpy.
Amy said that while they fought over anything and everything, especially the TV, they always had someone to hang out with, which was good.
Asked what was good about sharing the same birthday, Dearbhail replied: “Mammy and Daddy only have to get one bouncy castle and a big cake.”
Master of the Rotunda, Sam Coulter-Smith, said it was a huge boost for the staff to see the children looking so healthy.
“To get five babies surviving so well is very, very unusual,” he said.