Written by Katie Piacentini Monday, 14 May 2012 17:33
According to the March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, more than 30,000 babies are born premature in New York each year and more than 4,000 of those babies are born right here on Long Island.
In their mission to reduce the number of premature births, the Long Island division of the March of Dimes New York Chapter recently announced its Long Island ambassador families, who were chosen because they have children who were born premature. They include the Raymar family from Merrick, the Thomas family from Massapequa and the Theologitis family from Lake Grove. These three families volunteer in their communities and help to raise funds for the March of Dimes to support programs that encourage healthy, full-term pregnancies.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that premature birth, also known as preterm birth, occurs when a baby is born at less than 37 weeks gestation (full term is 40 weeks). According to the CDC, the majority of preterm births come about spontaneously and without a known cause. In other cases, the CDC states that doctors may decide to deliver a baby early because of concerns for the health of the mother or the baby.
According to the CDC, most babies born a few weeks early do well with no health consequences, although some encounter health problems such as jaundice, breathing problems and longer hospital stays. The CDC states that the earlier a baby is born, the more severe his or her health problems are likely to be, and preterm delivery is the most common cause of infant deaths. In addition, the CDC claims that babies who survive preterm birth may have permanent issues, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, feeding and digestion problems, respiratory problems and vision and hearing loss.
Fraternal twins Grace Michelle and John Russell Thomas of Massapequa were born in critical condition at 25 weeks gestation. Grace weighed 1 lb. 11 oz. and John weighed 1 lb 14 oz. Both of the twins required lifesaving heart surgeries, while Grace had additional surgeries to deal with her collapsed lungs and respiratory problems. Even though John was released from the hospital six weeks sooner than Grace, his parents, Danielle and Gregg Thomas, later discovered that John had profound hearing loss.
John and Grace are two years old this year. The Thomas family says that the twins are doing better and they have kept up the fight against their health problems. Recently, the Thomas family participated in a local March for Babies walk, which raises funds for the March of Dimes. In describing their involvement with the March of Dimes, Gregg and Danielle said, “Every day, thousands of babies are born too soon, too small and often very sick…. We want to do something about this.”
Samantha Brooke Raymar of Merrick was born 15 weeks premature, weighing in at just 1lb. 11oz. She survived due to the numerous surgeries, blood transfusions and breathing treatments she had at the Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winthrop University Hospital. After three months, she was able to go home, and Sami is two years old this year.
Sami’s parents, Brandon and Melinda, say that she is very happy – she loves books, Elmo and her family. They feel that it is important to find out why premature birth happens and what can be done to prevent it, and that is the mission of the March of Dimes.
Ann Marie and Pete Theologitis of Lake Grove had triplets – identical twin boys, Niko and Alex, and a girl, Ava – who were born three months premature at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Ava was the only one of the triplets who survived, and her family thanks the NICU at Stony Brook for their expert care in keeping her alive.
To pay it forward and to help other families in similar situations, Ann Marie and Pete volunteer in the NICU. They also participated in the local March for Babies walk to raise fund for the March of Dimes. The money they raised will support March of Dimes research and programs that help moms have full-term pregnancies and babies begin healthy lives. And it will be used to bring comfort and information to families with a baby in newborn intensive care, Ann Marie and Pete explained.
The March of Dimes is committed to funding research to find the answers to premature births and providing comfort and information to families who are affected. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com/ny or find them on Facebook (group name: March of Dimes Long Island Division).