Almost 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States are premature — also known as preemies — and there is one national organization helping to ease this statistic: The March of Dimes. The March of Dimes focuses on the urgency and serious consequences of prematurity, which they cite as being “the #1 killer of babies.”
“It seemed like forever before the doctor finally came in,” said Trisha Bogdon, recounting the story of the first time her doctor told her something wasn’t right with one of her twins. “She began to talk about baby Skylin and told us that all of her measurements looked fantastic. She then moved on to baby Atlas… I watched her take a deep breath and she began to list all of the things that weren’t developing properly. From head to toe.”
Eight weeks later, and 11 weeks too soon, her babies were born.
One of the ways The March of Dimes is working to tackle prematurity is through their launch of the nation’s first Prematurity Research Centers. These centers are dedicated to solving the mysteries of premature birth, one of the most significant health threats to mothers and babies everywhere. These five March of Dimes Centers are pioneering a brand-new way of doing “team science,” bringing together an unprecedented array of scientists dedicated solely to examining, identifying and preventing the causes of preterm birth.
Bogdon’s story is a heartbreakingly familiar one. According to The National Center for Health, 9,517 babies in Virginia were born preterm in 2014. The average medical cost for a premature baby is $54,194, while for the average healthy baby the cost is only $4,389.
Now imagine these numbers accompanied with the cost of hospital bills for babies that stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) longer than a couple months. It can reach into the millions.
The societal cost of premature birth in Virginia alone is $491 million. The emotional cost of premature birth is immeasurable.
“Mentally, it effected everything. I ended up with postpartum depression,” said Madyson Chene, a local Mom to a 26-weeker. “Physically, everything was effected as well. I did nothing but drive back and forth to see her. Financially, I lost my job and I had a hard time affording gas money to go see her. I missed a lot of family events and I lost a lot of friends.”
Chene said the cost of having a premature baby effected every aspect of her life. Her daughter lived in the NICU for five and a half months total — almost half of her first year of life.
I received countless stories just like Chene’s from local Hampton Roads families all with the same feelings. These Moms are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. Going through a journey that doesn’t always end with happy results.
Hampton Roads programs that address this issue rely on our local March of Dimes and volunteer donors to raise funds each year to combat the staggering the cost of premature birth. In 2015, locally, our market (including the Peninsula) raised $463,010 through the March for Babies Campaign. These funds were raised by local families, schools, civic leagues, businesses, sororities and fraternities, and faith based organizations. It is because of the generosity of the community that the March of Dimes is able to invest in the health of babies.
“In Greek mythology, Atlas held the world on his shoulders,” said Bogdon, remembering Atlas, her premature son lost too soon. “He was the bearer of the sky. Just like our little Atlas.”
The community needs you to help babies like Atlas hold up what can be an unforgiving sky.
To join the fight against birth defects, premature birth and infant loss, and the March for Babies is our biggest weapon. On May 6th our March for Babies community of families and businesses will come together to walk and to raise money. Join us for an incredibly inspirational day. Registration begins at 9 am, and the walk begins at 10am at 24th Street Park at the Oceanfront. Sign up to walk here. Make a donation here.