Good things come in little packages sometimes.
On Sunday, my husband and I attended the March of Dimes walk in Princeton, which raised $41,000 for research and eduction on behalf of healthy pregnancies and babies, as well as support services for those families who have experienced premature births.
The grand marshal for the walk was 2-year-old Kendra Story, my great niece. Kendra weighed only 2 pounds and 2 ounces when she was born. Her folks, Amy and Larry, were living in Texas at the time and I followed Kendra’s progress primarily through Facebook. I remember the pictures of this tiny, tiny baby, fragile but still strong.
I met Kendra for the first time, in person, about a year ago at her grandmother’s house near Henry. Kendra was laughing and jumping and running all over the place. She was a miracle in motion.
Kendra and her mom led Sunday’s march, riding their horses. Behind them came about 15 other horseback riders and 100 walkers. The participants came in all ages. There were young children and teens. There were young parents pushing toddlers in strollers. There were older folks, maybe grandparents. Most everyone was smiling and talking to their friends, but there were some people with very somber faces. I wondered about all their stories, about the babies they loved.
In two weeks, my daughter Clarissa will participate in Salt Lake City’s March of Dimes walk in honor of her daughter, Brooklyn, who was born Jan. 1, seven weeks early.
The story of premature births and the need for agencies like the March of Dimes takes on a whole new meaning when it is your grandchild in the neonatal intensive care unit.
We were among the more fortunate ones, with Brooklyn weighing in at 4 pounds, 14 ounces. But still, her little system wasn’t developed enough to make it on her own for a while. There were antibiotics, monitors, around the clock care. She hadn’t yet learned how to suck, so she needed to be fed through a tube in her nose.
I remember the first time I got to hold her, making sure I maneuvered the tubes and monitors and wires so I didn’t pull anything loose and set off alarms..
Neonatal units can be scary places because you are so out of control, so over your head in medical terms and needs. But in some ways, that neonatal unit in Salt Lake City was one of the most comforting places I’ve ever been because I knew Brooklyn was getting the high level of care she needed, a level of care that even a mother and father’s love, a grandmother’s love couldn’t bring her.
It was a long three weeks for Brooklyn and her family before she was dismissed from the hospital. Much of Brooklyn’s story is still very tender for me to share.
I’m more aware than ever before that not all stories end as well as Brooklyn’s story — that many families spend months, not just weeks, in neonatal units. I know some families have to travel hours to reach their hospitals and make extensive childcare provisions for their other children. The financial impact is monumental.
But on Sunday, as I watched the March of Dimes parade before me, I thought about all the Kendras and Brooklyns of this world, and how good it was to come together as a community to raise awareness and financial support for the cause of healthy pregnancies and babies. Maybe we don’t all have a bunch of extra money to give, but most of us probably have a few dollars.
After all, good things, whether babies or donations, can come in little packages.
BCR Senior Staff Writer Donna Barker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.