Focus on Prematurity

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The March of Dimes has targeted premature births worldwide with support for mothers and families and with research dollars.

On the day you read this, about 1,400 babies in the United States will be born prematurely. To many people, that’s just a number. But for those who have had a premature child, it represents sheer terror. I know, because I am one of those parents..

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My son, Huard, was born Oct. 21, 1972. He weighed 3 pounds 2 ounces at birth and was in pediatric intensive care for 32 days. I don’t think there were neonatal intensive care units in those days. The pediatrician called in to assist told me he had a 50-50 chance of living. He lied. I looked it up. The chances were 1 in 5. He made it through fine. The doctors and nurses called him “Tiger.”
Today, his chances would be excellent although still of concern. That’s how much things have changed in the world of pediatric medicine. Those changes came about in part because of the March of Dimes.

“If you look at it historically, they’ve funded a lot of research, starting initially with the polio vaccine,” says Dr. Victor Y. Levy, a neonatologist and pediatric cardiologist in Fort Worth.
“My mother is a neonatologist, and she’s been in practice for about 35 years,” he said. “The amount of progress we’ve made just in the past 20 years is tremendous.”

But the premature birth rate in the United States has risen by 36 percent over the last 25 years. In 2003, the March of Dimes began the Prematurity Campaign to help families deliver full-term babies. The organization is funding research among other efforts.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month, when the March of Dimes attempts to focus the nation’s attention on premature births.

Levy was a member of “Team McCoy” for the twin daughters of Denae and Brian McCoy of Fort Worth. The McCoys and their surviving daughter, Ada, are the March of Dimes Ambassador Family for 2013. The second daughter — Siena — lived seven months and six days, all in the NICU. Levy admires the way the McCoys dealt with a tragic situation.

“It was extraordinary, actually,” he said. “My wife and I went through a similar situation. We had twins, and one of them was sicker than the other. We actually knew prenatally that from a prognostic standpoint that one of them was going to be very sick.”

“I remember how we handled that news and situation, and to tell you the truth, with the McCoys I was just in awe and inspired daily by Denae and Brian’s dedication to each other and to the children,” he said. Levy’s wife is the family’s pediatrician and they all stay in touch.

“Where is the best place for a baby? Inside a mom,” Levy says. In treatment, “we’re essentially trying to reproduce what is inside of mom’s womb and trying to reproduce that environment. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely.”

Research is essential and so is the money to fund it. And it doesn’t take a medical degree or years of education to do that. Levy notes that the March of Dimes is very active in Fort Worth and has numerous fundraisers that provide opportunities to give money for research.

The next opportunity is the 2013 Fort Worth Signature Chefs Auction on Thursday, Sept. 26, at River Ranch in the Historic Stockyards. The Western-themed event begins at 6:30 p.m. The event is in its seventh year and participating chefs donate a signature sampling for event patrons. The lead chef is Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods.

For more information, contact Melissa McClary: mmcclary@marchofdimes.com or 682.201.3036