March of Dimes: A Fighting Chance for Every Baby

On June 9 Brittany and Craig Roper welcomed their quadruplets – Remi, Judson, Beckett and Landry into the world. They had wanted children for many years and finally they were parents…. unfortunately the quads were premature arriving at 27 weeks and weighing in at only 2.4, 2.5, 2.7 and 2.8 lbs. Though the Ropers would not wish this experience on anyone, they felt fortunate their babies were delivered at Greenville Health System with all of its neonatal resources and expertise.

“The first few days after the babies arrived were just a blur, but I do remember being introduced to our March of Dimes NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) Family Support team,” reflected Brittany. “I don’t know what we would have done without them. Penny and Rachel have offered us their ongoing support. They are always there to answer our endless questions and to anticipate our needs as we navigate all of the complexities of neonatal care.”

For more than 75 years the March of Dimes has tackled complex health issues facing moms, babies and families. And once again our state tops a list that we don’t want to be on. South Carolina has one of the highest premature birth rates in the country, with one in nine babies (more than 6,000) born prematurely each year and admitted to a NICU. Our state receives “D” or “F” grades each year on the annual Prematurity Report Card issued by the March of Dimes.

Having a baby hospitalized in a NICU can be frightening, confusing and overwhelming. Some babies spend just a couple of days there, while others are there for many long months. NICU Family Support offers information and comfort during and often after a family’s hospital stay. More than 700 families are served annually through the program at the Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital. To further support these families March of Dimes helped to create the Bright Space for Siblings Room, a special place where families with infants in the NICU can gather and play with their other children.

Rachel Balck, March of Dimes NICU Family Support Specialist, has worked with families at the Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital since 2001 when the program launched as one of three pilots in the country. “It is truly a privilege to be a part of this important program. While I can’t change the situation and the fact the baby is premature, I can advocate for and provide information and comfort to the families. And I am there for them when they need to debrief or have questions. My role is to try to normalize a very abnormal situation,“ explained Rachel.

Family Support Specialists demystify the medical care system and try to help parents feel in control. They work closely with the nursing staff to insure parents feel engaged and included in their baby’s care. They also provide congratulatory gifts like donated handmade hats and blankets for newborns and t-shirts and books for their siblings. “Meeting the emotional needs of each family is paramount,” concluded Rachel.

“One of the things we will always cherish was the gift that March of Dimes provided on Craig’s first Father’s Day, a few short days after our babies were born. They gave him a baseball with footprints from each of our children. This gift is so significant since our daughter, Landry passed away a few days later after developing Necrotizing Enterocolitis. March of Dimes was there to support us during this unbelievably difficult time. They put together a care package of keepsakes and all of Landry’s things. They also gave teddy bears provided by volunteers to each of her siblings. And they attached a butterfly to each of their incubators so everyone in the NICU knew our family’s story,” shared Brittany.

After 69 days in the NICU, the Ropers were delighted to take Judson and Remi home. At the time of this interview the brother and sister had been home for several weeks, both weighed more than 7 lbs. and were doing well. As you might imagine the family continues to be actively engaged with the health care system – visiting a variety of medical specialists on a regular basis to monitor the babies’ developmental milestones.

Beckett remains in the NICU with some medical concerns. Fortunately March of Dimes is there to assist since Brittany is only able to get to the hospital every few days. “It is so difficult to be separated from Beckett, however I know he is receiving great care. March of Dimes continues to be there for us,” explained Brittany. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Rachel and Penny. My family appreciates everything you have done for us.”

For more information about the March of Dimes visit marchofdimes.org or call (864) 235-8576.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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