Two years on, and their brave son has celebrated his second birthday with a bright future ahead of him.
But for dad Matt, the memories of how his ‘miracle baby’ spent his first few months, continue to have a constant presence in his life.
The 34 year-old said: “Everything little thing he does is a massive deal for us.”
“We see him as a little miracle because when he came along they were telling us ‘it’s too soon’.”
“Until Rhys, I didn’t realise that babies could be born that early - so from that moment on we knew there would be a lot to overcome.”
In his first weeks of life Rhys contracted three life-threatening infections, including gastroentiritus, suffered a collapsed lung and needed to have three operations.
The brave tot had an oxyblood transfusion, a third of his bowel removed, a pit-line installed in his chest - and at one point medics gave him only a 20 per cent chance of survival.
“We were absolutely distraught when we heard that,” said Matt, of Heaton Gardens, Edlington.
“We had already been through so much. It was like walking into a brick wall.”
For Matt, who is a RAF engineer based at RAF Waddington, one of the worse parts of Rhys’ health problems was not being able to do anything to help his son when he was in pain.
“You’re supposed to be the one looking after your child, but we had to hand him over to someone else to help him,” he says.
“I felt like I was failing as a father.” Despite the tremendous obstacles in front of them, the new parents never gave up on believing Rhys would get better, which Matt said they managed to do by focusing on what they could do to help Rhys and each other.
Vicky, 33, busied herself by expressing her breast milk - to help Rhys when his operations were behind him, while Matt did everything he could to look after her.
And after three months of treatment, operations and care, Matt and Vicky were finally able to bring their son home.
Since then, Rhys has had a few infections and a hospital stay but Matt says he is progressing well.
For his second birthday, Rhys was ‘spoiled’ and received lots of presents including toys and DVDs from the film franchise Cars which is his favourite. He also enjoyed a day out at Whirlow Farm in Sheffield.
“Rhys is doing really well now . He has a little scar on his tummy and he is more susceptible to infections but he’s like any other boisterous toddler. He currently loves his cars and jumping around – he’s full of energy,” said Matt.
“A lot of parents compare their child’s milestones to how another person’s child is doing, but I don’t see the point in that. At the end of the day, Rhys shouldn’t even be here - so I’m going to make sure I enjoy and celebrate every single one of his milestones.”
Rhys recieved most of his treatment at the Jessop Wing hospital in Sheffield, which specialises in treatment for babies born prematurely,
Matt has praised the ‘outstanding’ treatment Rhys received and says he will be eternally grateful to the staff.
He said: “The doctors and nurses there are the miracle workers. They were our angels.”
And today, far from wanting to forget about the traumatic first few months of Rhys’ life, Matt says the ordeal has helped to make him a better person.
“Aside from the pain Rhys and Vicky went through, I wouldn’t change what’s happened because it’s made me more understanding and now I don’t take anything for granted.”
To ‘give something back’ to the Jessop Wing, Matt is taking part in the Master Cutler charity challenge, which launches this week, which will see the proud dad and his team of fundraisers use their business, entrepreneurial and fundraising skills to turn £100 into as much money as possible over six months.
The money raised will be donated to the Sheffield Hospitals Charity and the Whirlow Hall Farm Trust.
Mistress Cutler, Jane Pedder said: “I hope Rhys’s story inspires more businesses to take on our exciting challenge so we can help more premature and sick babies like Rhys.”
Anyone interested in taking part in the Master Cutler’s challenge or finding out more about Matt’s fundraising should visit: www.mastercutlerschallenge2014.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 0114 271 1351.