Local Family Named March of Dimes Fairfield Ambassadors

| Thursday, February 18, 2016

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Leigh-Anne Lefurge, March of Dimes, (860) 815-9353, llefurge@marchofdimes.org

Family to speak at March for Babies at Jennings Beach on Sunday, May 1st

Fairfield, CT, February 18, 2016 —

On Sunday, May 1st, hundreds from Fairfield County communities will gather for March for Babies at Jennings Beach to benefit the March of Dimes.  Leading the festivities will be the event’s 2016 Ambassadors, Heath and Alyssa Kent, along with their two children, Virginia, 4 years old, and Henry, eight months. They will share their family’s prematurity journey, thank walkers for their commitment to the March of Dimes mission to give all babies a healthy start, and lead the walk with their team, “Go Ginny Go.”  Since their first walk in 2012, their March for Babies team has raised nearly $43,000.

In October 2011, Health and Alyssa were looking forward to the February birth of their daughter.  But during a routine appointment at just 21 weeks, Alyssa was diagnosed with cervical incompetency and was already dilated.   She was put on home bed rest and then a week later was admitted to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, where she could be monitored on strict bed rest.  After four weeks, at just 25 weeks gestation, Virginia was delivered and weighed just 1 lb. 7 oz. 

“After going on bed rest at 21 weeks, we felt so fortunate that we had made it to a gestation where our daughter could be helped by the incredible doctors, nurses and staff of the NICU and could receive the lifesaving treatments that were developed with March of Dimes research funding,” said Alyssa.  “We had that time on bed rest to mentally prepare what our NICU journey might be like and it was still more challenging than we could have imagined.”

Like many premature babies, Virginia’s lungs were underdeveloped and she received surfactant to help mature her tiny lungs.  Babies with underdeveloped lungs may develop respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and struggle to breathe because their immature lungs do not produce enough surfactant, a protein that keeps small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990. Since then, deaths from RDS have been reduced by half. 

Virginia also faced severe heart, kidney and eye complications and had a very difficult time learning how to drink from a bottle.  She remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for 124 days before coming home.

“Our NICU experience was a marathon – a 124 day marathon where one day merged into the next.  There was equal parts hope and heartbreak every step of the way,” said Alyssa.

Today Virginia is a thriving preschooler who enjoys swimming, gymnastics, painting, playing outside and watching Sofia the First.  She became a big sister in June 2015 when her brother Henry was born.  He was born healthy and nearly full-term.   

Each year in Connecticut more than 36,000 babies are born.  1 in 10 babies are born too soon, and 1 in 7 infant deaths is attributed to a birth defect, and nearly 200 babies die before reaching their first birthday.  The mission of the March of Dimes is to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality through research, education, advocacy and community programs.

“We have been committed to raising awareness regarding pregnancy complications and premature birth since our own experience in 2011.  We have been so thankful for the wonderful support, connections and friendships that we have gained – as well as the opportunity to turn our experience into something to celebrate and pay it forward,” said Alyssa.  “We know that Virginia is healthier and we had more support because another family walked before us.  We see it as our opportunity and pleasure to pay it forward in any way we can so that another baby can be healthier and another family more knowledgeable and supported.” 

March for Babies participants can meet the Kent’s and hear their story at March for Babies at Jennings Beach in Fairfield on Sunday, May 1st.  Registration begins at 10:00 a.m. with the walk kicking off at 11:00 a.m.  To register visit marchforbabies.org/event/fairfield or marchofdimes.org/ct

Fairfield March for Babies is supported by Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Survey Sampling International, News12 Connecticut and Lamar.

For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefitted from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs.  Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at marchforbabies.org.  Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.  The 2016 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes number one corporate supporter, Kmart, Famous Footwear, Macy’s, Cigna, United Airlines and Mission Pharmacal.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org for more information. Visit shareyourstory.org for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.