November is Prematurity Awareness Month, sponsored by the March of Dimes. Today, November 17, is also the 8th Annual National Prematurity Awareness Day. It also happens to be the birthday of my two favorite preemies, my twins.
I think it’s fabulous that Prematurity Awareness Day falls on their birthday. What a wonderful way to celebrate their miraculous survival and to raise awareness of the serious issues surrounding premature birth.
We were lucky. Our twins were only about a pound and a half each at birth and spent five months in the hospital. We went through years of playing catching up with the help of occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and one-on-one professional and liquid therapy for mom. Every step was painful and joyful at the same time, and at 19 (!) both children are happy, healthy and moving forward in their lives.
We were also lucky to live in Chicago, which is home to a number of outstanding Level III neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), the largest of which are:
- Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital NICU
- Children’s Memorial Hospital NICU
- Henrietta Louis Johnson Infant Special Care Unit at Evanston Hospital (now part of the NorthShore University HealthSystem)
- Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Northwestern Memorial Hosptial
- University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital NICU
These five hospital units alone comprise hundreds of preemie beds, which speaks to the growing need. The March of Dimes reports the following statistics on premature birth in America:
- 543,000 babies, 1 in 8, are born prematurely each year.
- Premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborns.
- Premature babies cost 10 times more than healthy babies.
- The rate of premature births has risen 30 percent since 1981.
Worldwide, the 13 million babies are born prematurely each year. For more information on the Prematurity Campaign, visit the March of Dimes website. Happy birthday, my babies.