March for Babies campaign kicks off
by Marie Nesmith
Feb 16, 2012 | 3144 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nicholas Fisher, 5, enjoys himself at Bartow County’s 2012 March for Babies kickoff luncheon as his mother tells the audience how their family benefited from the March of Dimes when Nicholas and his sister, Jessica, were born prematurely. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With both of her children born prematurely, Katherine Fisher knows first hand how the March of Dimes benefits the health of newborns through education, research and advocacy. Currently serving as the Ambassador Family for Bartow County's 2012 March for Babies campaign, Fisher and her husband, Brian, are sharing their journey with the public to shine a spotlight on the issue of preterm birth, which in Georgia is 1.1 percent higher than the national rate.

"Nicholas was born at 25 weeks gestation," Fisher said. "He weighed 1 pound 4 ounces and Jessica was born at 27 weeks gestation. She weighed 1 pound 14 ounces. I had liver failure with both of them. The only way to reverse that is to [deliver] the babies. Sometimes it occurs early in pregnancy. Sometimes it occurs late and it's not a big deal, but mine was right at the cusp of viability as they call it.

"Nicholas was in [the hospital] for four and a half months, or 139 days. Jessica was in for four months, or 125 days. And it was very stressful. They were down in Atlanta at Northside, which is quite a drive from anywhere around here. The first day ... we just didn't know [what would happen]. We were literally given a 20 percent chance of him making it out of the delivery room as they wheeled us down the hall to surgery. And then with Jessica, we knew what to expect and she was two weeks older. She was slightly bigger. She was given slightly better chances, but even term babies can have major problems so you're never out of the woods. I think any baby that makes it to term is a miracle."

During her children's first few months of life, she said her family benefited greatly from the research conducted by the March of Dimes. To help support the organization, Fisher's family is serving as Bartow County's Ambassador Family and helping promote its March for Babies May 4 walk.

Describing them as "miracles," Fisher said her children still have some lingering health issues from their prematurity, with both undergoing eye surgeries and 5-year-old Nicholas experiencing low muscle tone. March of Dimes' latest data reports one in eight babies is born preterm, or prior to 37 weeks, in the United States. While many premature babies will rebound to live healthy lives, some will face complications, ranging from breathing problems to behavioral issues.

"Ninety percent of the medication these kids received have been funded, researched by the March of Dimes. The heart med is a good [example]. Just between the two years between Nicholas and Jessica, the medication changed to a much safer medication to close the heart valve," Fisher said, referring to both of their heart valves needing assistance to close. "And the March of Dimes [is involved] with that kind of stuff, just constantly doing more research. They [also] both received surfactant, which [is where] they put liquid into the lungs to keep the lungs from sticking to each other and even 15 years ago that was experimental. So that's something they've done.

"Our role [as ambassadors] is to just kind of get the word out about premature babies, expose this to people who may have never heard that babies can survive this young and what March of Dimes does. Without the money that the donations campaign brings in, the March of Dimes couldn't do their research to save these babies. We will be leading off a walk at Dellinger Park but basically our job is to get our story out. ... We are lucky in the fact that our babies have very little long-term issues and [it is important] that [people know] these [premature] babies can have an excellent success story because these are true miracles."

The March for Babies campaign currently is seeking teams to participate in the 2-mile walk -- May 4, 7 p.m., at Cartersville's Dellinger Park -- that is anticipated to raise $60,000. Registration will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Proceeds obtained through sponsorships and team fundraisers will support the March of Dimes. At a kickoff luncheon on Wednesday, Rodney Scott -- 2012 Bartow County March for Babies chairman -- rallied the participants to financially support the March of Dimes' efforts.

"We at Georgia Power are thrilled to be the presenting sponsor this year for the nation's oldest fundraiser -- the March for Babies," said Scott, Georgia Power Plant Bowen engineering and planning manager. "Georgia Power has long been committed to the March of Dimes and its mission and we understand how important it is for our community to work together to defeat the [problems] facing our babies -- premature births, birth defects and infant mortality. I'd like to challenge each and every one of you to join us in the walk and also join us in the fundraising.

"I'm proud to say right now at Georgia Power, we have raised almost $8,000 and our goal for Bartow County is $60,000. Our plan [at Georgia Power] is to raise over $10,000 as a part of that goal. So I would encourage y'all to join us. You may think, 'Well, it's just me by myself.' But you can go dig around in your ashtray in your car and look under the seat. We'll take pennies, quarters, dimes, nickels. We'll take it all. So we would appreciate the support."

To participate in or donate to March for Babies, visit www.marchforbabies.org or contact Michele Beal with the March of Dimes at 678-564-5231 or mbeal@marchofdimes.com.