Pre-NICU experience, my knowledge of March of Dimes was this: In March, as a kid, you read a lot for this program that was once called “Book It” which has something to do with this thing called March of Dimes, but you get a free personal pizza from Pizza Hut at the end, which is really the motivating goal.
I never knew.
I never knew that 1 in 10 babies are born premature. I never knew that prematurity was the #1 cause of infant mortality. And I never knew that my child, my baby, would be born three months premature.
So what does March of Dimes do? Allow me to borrow their simplest definition: “March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies.” And then let’s add words from their materials to explain they, “focus on fighting birth defects, premature birth and infant death with innovations like newborn screenings and surfactant therapy; education for medical professionals and the public about best practices; and lifesaving research. [They] provide comfort and support to families in NICUs and advocated for those who need [them] most, moms and babies.”
So what did March of Dimes do for us? I’m literally in tears as I look back through Oaklee’s discharge summary and type this up – March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990, and has since then reduced the rate of death by Respiratory Distress Syndrome (which Oaklee was diagnosed with upon birth) in half. They’re also working on new approaches to deliver inhaled nitric oxide (a treatment Oaklee also had) to where it is needed in the lungs to prevent Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. This is the type of research we need people to do, and the frontrunner for why this little family of three wants to raise money for an organization that may have literally saved Oaklee’s life.
On a smaller scale, the March of Dimes NICU Family Support is also a great program. Being in the NICU is hell. I wouldn’t wish any amount of time there on my worst enemy, but I’m so very grateful for the good things the NICU Family Support program is doing because the little things make a huge difference. They gave us booklets of information that took words like “surfactant therapy” and “bronchopulmonary dysplasia” and put them into laymen’s terms that even the just-gave-birth-and-desperately-in-need-of-a-transfusion woman could understand. They offered educational classes with previous NICU parents and Lactation Consultants and other various experts. They gave us keepsake books, milestone markers and little gift bags. And, oh my gosh, the little rubber duckies we found at Oaklee’s isolette on the holidays she spent in the NICU… It truly is the little things, isn’t it?
Simply put, raising $1000 is not enough to repay March of Dimes for what they did for us, but we’ll start there, and someday we’ll find a way to continue giving, to continue improving the outlook for premature babies like Oaklee.
So if it’s in your heart to give, we pray you’ll consider donating towards Oaklee’s team in the March for Babies on May 5 in Grand Rapids, MI. And if you’re local, we’d love to have you walk on our team with us. So many of you have already proven your place in the village that will raise our child and it is such a blessing to have you on Team Oaklee.