Ambassador Family for March of Dimes

March for Babies

We were invited to a luncheon today.  For us, and for many other families, it wasn’t just any luncheon – it was a VERY SPECIAL luncheon.  It was special for us and many other families because it was the kick-off for the March of Dimes, March for Babies Walk for 2012.  Our son Andy, his wife Stephanie, along with our little grandson, Austin Thomas Alexander, age 2 were named the “Ambassador Family” for the Anderson County March of Dimes – March for Babies for 2012.  Little Austin has been named the Anderson County March of Dimes 2012 Ambassador.

Austin’s story will serve as inspiration to others and help spread awareness of the March of Dimes and what they do.  We have a family team called “Miles into Miracles”, because we feel every mile walked and dollar raised brings us closer to more miracles.  Our family goal is to raise $3,300 for the 33 days he spent in the NICU, but, of course, we would be thrilled to raise much for for the March of Dimes!

AUSTIN THOMAS ALEXANDER, TODAY – TWO YEARS OLD

You see, the fact that Austin is here today with all of us is certainly a miracle!  He was born December 6, 2009 at only 31 weeks weighing 3 pounds, 5 ounces.  Now, take a look at this special little face above:  HE IS SUCH A MIRACLE!  We thank God for his life every single day!  If it weren’t for the March of Dimes and their research which aided in the development of a new drug, surfacant, as well as other drugs, Austin would not be with us today.


AUSTIN THOMAS ALEXANDER – ONE DAY OLD – 3 LBS. 5 OZ. – DECEMBER 6, 2009

Today at the kick-off luncheon for the March of Dimes, Stephanie and Andy were asked to get up and tell their story; the “Story of Austin”.  It was touching, it was heart-warming, it truly was the story of a “miracle”.

While sitting there listening to my daughter-in-law fight tears as she told of the 33 days in the NICU and how the March of Dimes had played such an important roll in our grandson’s life.  I wanted to do something.  I wanted to raise money for the March of Dimes because I KNOW…I KNOW FIRST HAND…HOW THEY GAVE US BACK OUR LITTLE BOY!  And, to think of all the lives they touch (and save) every single day – well, it’s just amazing!

So, this post is not only about Stephanie, Andy, and little Austin.  It is about awareness for the March of Dimes.  It is about the babies all over this world who are born prematurely; literally one every single minute.  I am asking you to help Steve and I, as well as Andy, Stephanie, and Austin raise money for this exceptional cause — saving the lives of many babies!

As we sat there today listening to “Austin’s Story” that we had lived along with Andy and Stephanie, our hearts were filled with tears and smiles.  Tears as we remembered the pain and the stress of seeing our “little one” struggling for his life, and smiles of gratefulness as we look at him today, playing, giggling, and laughing.  Below, you can read the story of Austin as Stephanie told it today:

Hi, we are Stephanie and Andy Alexander and this is our little miracle Austin. We are honored to serve as this year’s Ambassador Family and we hope we can help bring awareness to March of Dimes and what they do.

Even though it’s been 2 years I still get emotional about what Austin went through, so to make sure I let you hear his whole story I am going to read it to you.  In 1983 I myself was born prematurely at 32 weeks, and I weighed 3pounds 7 ounces. No one would have ever thought that we would face a similar situation almost 27 years later. But on December 3, 2009 I was 31 weeks pregnant and diagnosed with preeclampsia. I was rushed to the hospital and started on steroid shots to improve the development of Austin’s lungs. I was also started on Magnesium to lower my blood pressure and hooked to several machines to monitor Austin and myself. The next morning I was given another shot of steroids and at 6 pm that night I was induced. After 42 hours of uneventful labor the doctors decided the safest delivery for the Austin and me would be a c-section.

So on December 6, at 12:10pm Austin was born weighing 3 pounds 5 ounces and 17.25 inches long. He took his first breath and cried on his own and I got give him one kiss as they rushed by me on the way to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU. Once in the NICU his breathing became erratic and he was placed on the ventilator. Austin was put in an incubator and under jaundice light. The Doctors inserted a central pica line for medicine and IV fluids and a feeding tube. He was diagnosed with Respiratory Distress Syndrome or RDS which is a lung malfunction.  He was on the ventilator for 6 days followed by 2 days of the C-Pap machine. This machine placed a tube in his mouth and a helmet type hat was around his head and face to hold it in, it took room air and pushed it with a little force helping him breathe deeper. That was followed by nasal oxygen for the next few weeks.

Austin had to have 3 doses of surfactant, which was the medicine that opened his lungs and made the tacky hairs inside separate. Surfactant and many of the other treatments Austin received were developed by March of Dimes research.

Austin’s chest x-ray revealed he had pneumonia and he was put on a 10-day dose of antibiotics. His echocardiogram revealed he had a small hole in his heart known as Paten Ductus Arteriosis or PDA and the medicine to fix it would require us to stop his feedings for 2 doses within a 24 hour period and there were risk that it could shut his intestines down, of which we would not know for up to 23 days. They let us hold him for the first time for a few minutes before they started the medicine.  The next echo showed the hole had shrunk some but it was not closed, however, at the 23 day mark his intestines were fine and the hole had closed.

At 8 days old we started trying to get him to eat from a bottle, it took him 30 minutes to eat ½ a teaspoon of milk. As we gradually increased his feedings he would get tired and have trouble breathing, several times he had to go back on the feeding tube and oxygen for a few days to regain his strength before he could try again. Because when he ate from a bottle he would forget to breathe and swallow at the same time causing him to turn blue and stop breathing.

While we were in the NICU the local March of Dimes hosted a Christmas Dinner for all the families. They provided us with books about preemies, NICU procedures and cooping with the difficult decisions and stresses of the NICU.

January 2nd he was moved to an open bed and allowed to wear clothes, at this point we could hold him as much as we wanted. On the 5th he was taken off the Oxygen for the last time and on the 7th he was increased to all bottle feeds and the feeding tube was removed. On January 8th after 33 days in the NICU we got to come home as a family.  Austin had no oxygen, feeding tube, heart monitor or any other type of monitor to bring home.We are so thankful that God has blessed us with a happy healthy 2 year old .

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We are forever grateful to March of Dimes and everyone that volunteers, for if it were not for them and our gracious God, Austin would not be with us today. As I said earlier I was a preemie, and I remember as a kid walking in March of Dimes with my Dad and his work, but it wasn’t until we had Austin and truly needed their support that I began to realize what all March of Dimes is about, so from a mother of a Preemie that survived because of you Thank you!

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