Thursday, February 28, 2013

March for Babies

A few weeks ago, I attended the Orange County March for Babies kick off luncheon, and since then I've been tossing ideas around in my head about how to really write about why this walk has become so important to me.  It seems like every time I have a quiet moment, which is typically either those few moments before I fall asleep or the 5 minutes I get when I'm washing my hair, I start writing this post in my head.  And then editing and revising and rewriting.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  I think of things I don't want to forget to mention, anecdotes I want to be sure to share, and mostly I just meditate on the gratitude that I have for this little boy of ours as I am reminded that the March of Dimes is such a big part of why he is even here with us today.  I guess the reason why I support the March of Dimes is described in this statement copied and pasted from their website:

Funds raised in March for Babies support research and programs that help moms have full-term pregnancies and babies begin healthy lives. And they will be used to bring comfort and information to families with a baby in newborn intensive care.

I found that on the bottom of our Team Ryan Aprea fundraising page when I was updating the information since it was leftover from last year.  I actually had a little pang of guilt deleting what I had written just a few days after he was born, "Ryan was born on March 20, 2012 at 25 weeks gestation.  He's doing extremely well at CHOC's NICU under the excellent care of their doctors and nurses."  Something like that.  Reading that made me flash back to that time right after he was born.  I was in such a daze.  Never in a million years did I think we would be in the NICU another 6-7 months.  At that point, I was living day by day, holding onto ANY preemie success story, hanging off of any word a doctor or nurse would give me about how Ryan was doing, not knowing anything about how much our lives would be changed forever.  Most of all, I was trying to stay positive, as evidenced by the sentence where I described him as doing extremely well.  That was a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you all know that by now.  Our little fighter has done extremely well for what he has been dealt, there's no question about that.  He has fought his hardest and powered through more hurdles in the past year than most people do in their lifetimes.  But let's be honest, he's never been extremely healthy.  I have complete faith that there will be a day when I can say he's doing extremely well (and mean it), and I know that it will not have been possible without so much of the research and support that the March of Dimes gives.

I guess what I'm trying to say, without sounding like a horribly cheesy sales pitch, is that the March of Dimes really does do all that it says it will for pregnant moms and their babies.  I know for a fact that 2 of the treatments Ryan received in his first day of life to help his underdeveloped lungs work (surfactant therapy and nitric oxide therapy) were researched and developed with grants funded by the March of Dimes.  They have also funded research on ROP and how oxygen support can affect the development of the retina leading to vision impairment.  One of the speakers at our luncheon was actually from a sponsoring company called Masimo, who created the pulse oximetry monitor that we use on Ryan at home.  This machine monitors how much oxygen is flowing through his blood so we can prevent him from getting too much oxygen, which can affect his vision.  It was amazing to hear him speak about this technology that I was already so familiar with while so many other luncheon attendees were ohhhing and ahhhing at how fascinating and innovative it seemed.  Don't get me wrong, it is definitely fascinating and innovative, but after almost 11 months of it the novelty of it wears off, I guess.  I just thought it was so fitting that this company was one of the sponsors for Ryan's March for Babies walk.  The March of Dimes also had other NICU experienced moms call me just to check in.  I didn't realize at the time how valuable that resource was, but it seriously contributed to me keeping my cool and sanity during the most difficult of times.  I hope I can provide the same support to other moms who are going through the same trials.

It was also very fitting that the ambassador family this year had so many similarities to my own.  Two proud parents of a 25 weeker went up on the stage and introduced us to their beautiful family.  They had a daughter about 2 years older than their son, so our kids are even similar ages.  Their son is over 2 years old now, and it actually brought tears to my eyes to see him up there being held by his daddy.  He was so happy and vibrant, he loved the applause from the crowd.  All I could see was Ryan standing up there some day looking out into this crowd of people showing nothing but love for him and all he has accomplished.  Having a full term AND a preemie baby, I know the pride a mother feels when your child accomplishes something big, and I know that with a preemie, you glow with pride every morning just knowing your baby has fought so hard and overcome so much just to wake up with you in the morning.  It truly is inspirational and it has made me a better person in so many ways.  I'm truly blessed to be Ryan's mommy.  And I owe so much of that to the March of Dimes. 

We hope to share Ryan's story with anyone who will listen and encourage them to support the March of Dimes as well, so that advancements in medicine can continue to progress and all babies born to soon can have an even better chance of fighting and leading a healthy life.  Whether you sign up to walk and raise awareness, or you choose to donate to help support this worthy cause, or even if you just send a few extra prayers Ryan's way as he continues to grow healthy and strong, we appreciate any and all of it more than you will ever know.

If you would like to walk with or donate to Team Ryan Aprea, there's a quick link on the left side of this blog that will take you to Ryan's March for Babies page.

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