The March of Dimes foundation has been working to end premature births and complications from birth for 75 years by helping mothers have full-term pregnancies through research. In local communities across the country, March of Dimes has been helping moms take charge of their health, and supporting families when something goes wrong.
The Macon County Chapter of March of Dimes hosts annual events each year to raise money for the families affected by prematurity in the community. Jennifer Hollifield has served on the Macon County March of Dimes Steering Committee for 17 years acting as chairperson for the last 15 years. “This group does all the coordinating and planning for the March of Dimes activities in the county,” said Hollifield. “Currently, we have around 8 to 10 committee members who are active.”
The Macon County Chapter of March of Dimes set out in 2013 to raise $25,000, and as of Saturday's March for Babies walk, had exceeded that goal by raising $33,000. “Our goal was $25,000 but we would like to make it to $35,000,” said Hollifield. “The money raised goes into a variety of projects such as folic acid campaigns, research into prematurity and birth defects, NICU (neonatal intensive care units-such as one at Mission), grants, etc.”
The fundraising year will end in December, but there are still ways to help. “I would like to thank all who helped this year with March for Babies and Babies, Boots, & BBQ,” said Hollifield. “These events were great ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the March of Dimes. Macon County is always so generous with donations of all kinds. There is at least one more way people can donate this year, while getting a good meal. On Monday, Oct. 14, from 5 to 8 p.m., eat at Franklin Zaxby’s and March of Dimes will get a portion of total sales."
Each year, Hollifield and the steering committee selects a local ambassador family who has had personal experience with premature births. The 2013 ambassador family knows all too well the life-saving treatment that has been made possible through the March of Dimes Foundation.
When she was just 26 weeks pregnant, Rachael Williams found herself at Angel Medical Center days away from delivery. With her husband Brandon by her side, Rachael was admitted to AMC on a Friday. Because of how early Rachael was in her pregnancy, she was transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville, the following Sunday to be near the NICU or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit should she deliver early.
Rachael was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition that causes the mother's blood pressure to raise to unhealthy levels during the pregnancy. After being evaluated by the doctors at Mission, one week after first going to the hospital, Rachael delivered a baby girl, Peyton Michelle Williams on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Peyton was born at 26 weeks and six days gestation. She weighed one pound, 14 ounces and measured 12.5 inches long.
"Everything happened so fast," said Brandon. "We knew she might have to deliver early. On Thursday night they told us that we would not be having a baby then things changed and all of a sudden we were being rushed to delivery. I really tried to keep Rachael from being scared and upset. I didn't really have time to think about how I felt. When I first saw Peyton I was overwhelmed seeing her so small and helpless and there was nothing I could do."
The doctors at Mission Hospital cared for Peyton for the first two months of her life, working to keep her strong and to help her develop outside of her mother's womb. “Peyton was at Mission Hospital in Asheville for about two months because she was so early,” said Rachael. “Doctors had told us at first that she would have to stay in the hospital until my original due date, which was Jan. 12, 2013. She came home on Dec. 17, 2012. The doctors and nurses were amazing, they were always straightforward with us with any issue that came up.”
As first time parents, Rachael and Brandon said the hardest part of their experience bringing Peyton into this world was feeling so helpless for such a large part of Peyton's first days. “It was really hard to see her so little and so helpless,” Rachael said. “Not knowing if I was going to get that call in the middle of the night that something was wrong. Not being able to hold her at first or to take her home from the hospital right after she was born.”
After being born 13 weeks early, Peyton relied on the help of doctors to survive day to day. According to the Williams family, if it weren't for medical advancements made possible specifically through the research of March of Dimes, Peyton might not have survived. “March of Dimes saved Peyton's life,” said Rachael. “If not for the March of Dimes research, Peyton might not be with us today. One of the things that March of Dimes research came up with is a medicine called Surfactant, which keeps premature babies' lungs from sticking together so she never had to be put on a ventilator. Peyton is part of the one percent of premature babies who are able to breathe on their own at birth and are not placed on a ventilator. Doctors told us that 20 years ago they would not have been able to save a baby born at 26 weeks.”
“Several people on the Steering Committee knew of Peyton’s premature birth and that she benefitted from March of Dimes research and had done incredibly well,” said Hollifield. “She is a true March of Dimes success story.”
Rachael said she was proud her family was asked to be the 2013 ambassador family to help continue raising awareness for March of Dimes. “Continuing research and support for March of Dimes is important so that in the future babies aren't born as early as Peyton and so families don't have to go through what we went through. And that if babies are born early, resources are available so ensure that all babies will have a great outcome like Peyton has had.”
Ready to celebrate her first birthday this Saturday, Oct. 12, Peyton now weighs 15 pounds and measures 24 inches long. “She is a very happy and easy going little girl,” said Rachael. “She loves all kinds of food and so far will eat anything. She loves to play peek-a-boo, and is very ticklish. She likes anything that makes noise. She has her two bottom front teeth. She is crawling and pulling up by herself. When Peyton went for her developmental appointment, the doctors in Asheville were very pleased with how well she is doing. They said she was further along than they thought she would be. Without the help from the nurses, doctors, March of Dimes and the prayers from the community we would not have Peyton today.”