Five hundred pink balloons were to fill the skies above Brighton today to celebrate a miracle birthday.

Annie Dudeney was born with a rare genetic disorder and doctors gave her little chance of surviving beyond three months.

Edwards syndrome affects the heart, lungs and digestive system, and few with it live beyond a year.

But today, Annie celebrates her 11th birthday, defying all expectations and making her the second-oldest child in the UK with the condition.

Her adoptive mother Jane, 58, sees every birthday as a miracle and marks the occasions by releasing balloons, with Annie's name printed on both sides, from the garden at their home in Southview Road, Peacehaven.

Ms Dudeney doubles the number of balloons each year and declared: "Life is perfect. Annie is wonderful."

Annie is severely disabled, is unable to do anything without assistance and she needs full-time care.

She is fed through a tube and sleeps with Ms Dudeney because her oxygen levels need regular checking but, Ms Dudeney insists: "We don't want people feeling sorry for us.

"We are enjoying every moment of every day of life."

School chums, friends and family, including Ms Dudeney's three adopted sons Ian, 15, Terry, 14 and Jack 12, will be joining the birthday celebrations today.

The three brothers dote on Annie, whose bedroom is festooned with poems from them.

Terry wrote a birthday poem to his sister: "I want this birthday, to be a special time, because it's a double, figure of one number.

"Yes, my little sister is 11."

Ms Dudeney said she never expected Annie to survive so long and has loved every minute of her life.

She said: "She is a very special girl, which is why we make sure we celebrate every birthday in a big way."

Annie has also received best wishes from local Brighton-based charity Leo House, which provides respite care and support at home to children and young people with life-limited illnesses.

Ms Dudeney is backing the charity's launch of a new fund-raising group headed by community fund-raiser David Speirs and businesswoman Fariba Taheri.

Two hours of nursing costs £40 and Leo House receives no statutory funding and relies on the generosity of the local community.

Leo House intends raising public awareness and launching new fund-raising initiatives.

Mr Speirs said: "With local community support from schools, businesses and churches and individuals, we believe we will be able to raise a great deal of funds for children across Sussex living with life-threatening illnesses."

A presentation evening is planned for the Belgrave Hotel, Brighton, on March 29. Contact Mr Speirs on 01273 625706 or