What if the hardest day of your life was also the very first? That’s just how it is for one in every eight babies who are born too soon. Every week in Virginia, over two hundred babies are born pre-term and spend weeks in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) struggling to survive.
Four years ago, Connor Streightiff was one of those infants. Born prematurely at 32 weeks, he weighed just four pounds. He endured more hardship in his first nine weeks than most people experience in a lifetime. After he was diagnosed with necrotizing entercolitis, an intestinal disease, doctors performed surgery to remove two-thirds of his colon. He was only ten days old. Later, his parents, Cody and Stacie of Richmond, received more disturbing news about their firstborn. Connor would have to fight through short bowel syndrome, septicemia, and bacterial meningitis.
Today Connor is a happy and healthy 4-year-old. Of course, he has no memories of his early struggles, but those days will stay with his parents forever. “Connor is an extremely happy and lovable little boy,” Stacie says. “If it weren’t for March of Dimes-funded research, our sweet Connor might not have had a chance to thrive.”
According to Angela Davis, division director of March of Dimes in Richmond, in the seventies, the organization led the drive to give families like Connor’s access to the type of life-saving NICU that made it possible for him to survive. “Today, at over a hundred hospitals, including Henrico Doctors Hospital, Forest Campus, information and comfort is provided for families through the March of Dimes’ NICU Family Support project,” Davis says.
In Virginia, the March of Dimes funds research at major hospitals with investments in a number of areas besides premature births including, but not limited to birth defects, heart disease, cancer, juvenile diabetes, autism, and Alzheimer’s. Of course, March of Dimes remains committed to finding the causes of premature birth and helping prevent it.
As the Streightiffs considered adding on to the family, this was a primary concern. Although doctors were unable to determine the cause of Connor’s premature birth, they had a strategy to help reduce the chances of a second early delivery, thanks in part to the March of Dimes.
“My doctor monitored me closely, and I was given progesterone therapy, another advancement made possible through March of Dimes research. The therapy allowed me to deliver our son Caleb, happy, healthy and full-term,” says Stacie. “We have two success stories that might not have been successes if it weren’t for the March of Dimes.”