An organization dedicated to helping babies, wants more of them to come to full term before being born. The "Prematurity Campaign" is a five year, $75 million effort by the March of Dimes to reduce the number of premature births. Officials say research into the causes of premature birth is especially important in Mississippi which leads the nation in the number of preemies born.
"Baby Rachel" made her debut into the world 11 weeks before her lungs were ready. Neonatalogists say breathing trouble is the most common problem in premature babies whose young lives are often filled with struggle.
"There are all sorts of issues they have to deal with from the initial feeding problems, and being on I.V.s," said Dr. David Kuhlmann. "Sometimes premature babies can get infections and infections of their intestines that might require surgery maybe surgeries on their hearts."
The March of Dimes hopes the community will help the organization pay for research on premature births and prevent the side effects that can last a lifetime.
"You can have babies that have problems like poor eye sight, with Cerebral Palsy, with mental retardation and so those are issues that are directly related to being a pre-term baby," Kuhlmann.
Each year, about 150 premature infants are treated at Memorial Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Fortunately Baby Rachel is doing well. Her parents will have her home in a few weeks. Doctors wish all parents could be so lucky.
Dr. Robert Holcomb is a neonatalogist at Keesler Medical Center and the chairperson of the Mississippi March of Dimes "Prematurity Campaign".
"When their world is turned topsy-turvy because of a premature birth and even more so because of the death of that pre term child, they're the ones that have to go home and look at that empty nursery and live the rest of their live knowing they lost that child to a pre term birth," Holcomb said.
The March of Dimes is planning fundraisers including two Walk America events in the coming months in Harrison and Jackson County.