By Paula Halloum

Supported. Connected. Hopeful. These are the words that come to Kelly Wadsworth’s mind when she reflects on the role that the March of Dimes had on her infants and how the organization continues to impart its mission to her family and hundreds of thousands of mothers and babies each year.

Kelly and Tommy Wadsworth were faced with unexpected complications awaiting the birth of their first son, Jett. Twenty-nine weeks into her pregnancy, Kelly was admitted to the hospital and received intravenous medications (intended to cease contractions) as well as steroid shots to help her baby’s lungs mature in the event of an early delivery. She recalls how encouraged her doctor was as each day passed, and in the hopeful minds of the Wadsworths, the signs of premature delivery seemed to wane.

But just one week later, Kelly’s contractions became much stronger and an emergency C-section was required. Barely weighing more than three pounds at birth, Jett received ‘round the clock care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to monitor and help regulate his breathing, receive tube feedings, secure a near germ-free environment and many other supportive measures. For four weeks these new parents considered the NICU their home, peering at their son through his critical care crib and welcoming the day they could finally hold him skin-to-skin, otherwise known as “kangaroo care.”

Mr. Motivation

Jett proved his motivation to progress early on. At the mere age of 34 weeks since conception, he showed he could suck, swallow, breathe properly and regulate is body temperature…basic life-sustaining capabilities expected of a full-term baby at 40 weeks. His motivation still serves him well today; he’s an active and healthy boy of five years who is a champion big brother to his younger sibling Cruz.

A different experience

“[After we had Jett] we reluctantly, but hopefully decided that our family was not complete and risked having another,” explains Kelly. “Being a high-risk pregnancy the second time around I saw a specialist every week and was put on bedrest for the third trimester. We thankfully had a full term baby, but our connection to the March of Dimes was not over.” Cruz, although now a fully healthy two-year-old and runs to keep up with Jett, was discovered at birth to have a ventricular septal defect (VSD) – a hole in his heart – and club feet.

“Through the experiences of both our children, I felt the support from the March of Dimes held us together and gave us hope. They provided a huge support system and a network of families and other moms to connect with,” she recalls. “Honestly, I don’t think we would have considered having a second child if it hadn’t been for the hope and support of the March of Dimes.”

In the know

As its mission, the March of Dimes helps “moms have full-term pregnancies and researches the problems that threaten the health of babies.” Through efforts in areas such as prenatal education; advocacy for access to health care and prevention and treatment to improve maternal, infant and child health; research to prevent prematurity, birth defects and infant mortality; NICU family support; and newborn screening guidelines, this organization works together for stronger, healthier babies.

“Energy” sources

Much of this would not be possible without the time and effort of thousands of highly motivated individuals in support of the March of Dimes every day. And on Saturday, May 10, central Texas in a vast variety of forms and fashion will gather for the annual March for Babies at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock ( Months of preparation by participating teams, families and individuals has been abuzz, and key to keeping the momentum going is simple creativity while continuously raising awareness about the March of Dimes.

From large, theme-oriented events to more personal gatherings with big personalities, the spectrum of strategies to gain support is, well, awesome!

On that note, Seton Williamson Surgical Technician Sarah “is awesome” Bush keeps team spirit ablaze by organizing gift baskets for a silent auction. “I’m so excited to see the positivity that comes out of helping this organization,” she says. “It not only helps healthy moms and babies, but premature infants and their families, too. The March of Dimes provides these families with the resources they need to help them through the sometimes difficult times.”

Sarah’s gift basket inventory grows each year. Initially, two years ago, she rallied and arranged for 16 baskets; this year she’ll exceed 25. From spas to movies, sporting events to day trips, the gift basket donations keep getting better and better, which draws a bigger audience for raising awareness about the March of Dimes. “This year, a local jewelry store even donated a $6,500 pair of diamond earrings!” she beams.

Oftentimes the ambition to stay involved originates from a very personal source. Rebecca Achariyakosol of Dell, Inc. experienced her own loss in 2012 during the fifth month of her pregnancy. “I have a memory box from the March of Dimes with a card, blanket and a necklace. It was the only thing I had of my son at the time,” she notes. Rebecca’s first child, now three-and-a half years, also spent a week in the NICU following his birth. “I don’t ever want to forget how much the March of Dimes means to me, so I decided to become part of it. I think about the son I lost every day and by raising awareness for the March of Dimes I feel he’s not forgotten. He has an impact.”

Rebecca’s use of social media to relay her story and the March of Dimes message yields big results; her family team has ranked fifth highest in responses the past two years. “Via Facebook, emails, etc., I remind friends that every baby is a March of Dimes baby. It really resonates with them, and even with strangers who see my posts.”

A vision

The concept of prevention is a major catalyst for the Wadsworths’ continued involvement. “With the March of Dimes, we hope to help other families and to fulfill the wish that the day [will come] where others do not have to go through these unexpected scary hurdles. A day when all babies are born healthy,” says Kelly. Mirroring her heartfelt recollection of her own experiences, she sums her hopes for future families and babies touched by the March of Dimes, “Hope. Answers. Solutions.”

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