Todd P. Dezen, (914) 997-4608; firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Lynch, (914) 997-4286, email@example.com
Seattle, WA, 5-Year-Old Named March of Dimes National Ambassador
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., JAN. 17, 2012– When Shalini and Shane Wittstruck of Seattle, WA were told their baby would be born more than two months premature, they were forced to face the possibility that he might die or suffer lifelong health complications. But against all odds, their son, Kieran, has grown into a healthy 5-year-old boy who is the March of Dimes 2012 National Ambassador, it was announced today.
“Never did we imagine pregnancy as a life or death event. Then, one day, our lives and our expectations changed,” said Shalini Wittstruck.
As National Ambassador, Kieran will travel the country with his parents, representing thousands of families around the United States whose children have survived prematurity. The Wittstrucks will tell Kieran’s amazing story and help raise awareness of premature birth, as part of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, which seeks to educate pregnant women about preterm birth, provide information and comfort to parents of babies in newborn intensive care units (NICU), expand access to health insurance for women of childbearing age, and reduce the preterm birth rate. To watch a video of the Wittstrucks and hear more about their amazing story, please follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F4B3KlfkSE.
Kieran, who will be six in March, was born at 31 weeks of pregnancy, weighing only three pounds, one ounce. While their story has a happy ending, the Wittstrucks understand that not all premature babies are as fortunate as Kieran. Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and 1 in 8 US babies is born too soon. Babies who survive an early birth often have breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and other health challenges.
Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. Many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until a baby is full-term.
The Wittstrucks don’t know why Kieran was born too soon, but they hope the research and work of the March of Dimes continues so that one day more babies will get a healthy start in life. When Kieran was born, his parents were given worst-case scenarios from the doctors.
“I will never forget the sound of Kieran’s first cry. It’s etched in my memory forever,” said Shalini. “Doctors warned me that he might not survive and I thought I would never hear him.”
As a newborn, Kieran frequently stopped breathing while he slept and fell asleep while eating, which made it difficult for him to gain the weight he needed to safely leave the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). A heart murmur was found, as was a cyst in his brain. After an emotional 31 days in the hospital, Kieran was finally able to go home once he weighed almost five pounds.
Despite his premature birth and initial health complications, Kieran is now a healthy and active 5-year-old. He is a leader among his friends, and frequently invents games and machines. Kieran has great aspirations, and thinks that one day he would like to be an engineer or a pilot.
The Wittstruck family believes the research funded by the March of Dimes resulted in their son’s well-being and significantly improved his odds of survival. They are encouraging everyone to participate in the March of Dimes signature fundraising event March for Babies®. This year, more than 7 million people will join their family, friends and colleagues in 900 communities to March for Babies® across the nation. The money raised by March for Babies supports community-based programs that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies, and research to find answers to the problems that threaten babies lives.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me - but it did,” said Shalini, who is an employee of Cigna, a longtime March of Dimes national sponsor. “We need the March of Dimes to help understand what causes preterm birth so that it doesn’t happen to others.”
The March of Dimes National Ambassador Program is an annual campaign, started in 1946, that puts a face on the March of Dimes mission. United Airlines, who recently joined with Continental Airlines to create the world’s leading airline, will continue to serve as the official airline sponsor of the March of Dimes National Ambassador Program for the 7th consecutive year.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See where Kieran will travel this year by following his blog at http://kieranstravels.marchofdimes.com/.