According to the March of Dimes, 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely in the United States. About 50,000 babies are micro-preemies or babies born at less than 29 weeks’ gestation and weighing less than three pounds. Today’s organization provides support for the parents of micro-preemie babies.
Graham’s Foundation was founded in 2009 by Jennifer and Nick Hall in memory of their son, Graham. Jennifer and Nick understand firsthand the joys and heartaches of having micro-preemies. On Thanksgiving Day in 2006, their son Graham and daughter Reece were born at 25 weeks gestation. Graham was with them for just 45 days while Reece spent four long months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before coming home. Their experiences in the NICU and beyond that inspired them to begin helping others going through similar experiences.
The organization’s mission is to offer both practical and emotional support to parents of micro-preemie babies. The support offered takes the form of free care packages to parents during their infant’s stay in the NICU as well as a website and Facebook page where parents can share stories and find support. In addition, the organization provides care packages for parents who have lost a micro-preemie and they are in the process of developing a care package for moms and dads who are making the exciting and scary transition from the NICU to home with their baby.
Graham’s Foundation is based in Perrysburg, Ohio, but they serve parents all across the United States. They have even sent care packages internationally as well. Since their founding in 2009, they have sent almost 1300 care packages to 428 NICUs.
There are ways you can help! The organization keeps an updated list of opportunities on the “Support Our Mission” page of their website. Some ways you can help are:
- Donate your Pampers Gifts To Grow Points to Graham’s Foundation
- Donate products such as hand sanitizer, blankets, preemie hats, snacks, single use cameras and more for the care packages.
- Become a NICU ambassador to help connect Graham’s Foundation with a NICU in your area. You can learn more about the ambassador program here.
- Make a monetary donation through the Graham’s Foundation website.
Graham’s Foundation is not just about providing support, it is also about awareness of micro-preemies. They provided me with some facts to share with you about premature babies.
- Globally, preterm birth accounts for over 9.5% of all births, which means that more than 13 million babies are born too early each year.
- A micro-preemie is technically defined as any baby born at a birth weight of 1 ¾ pounds or less and before 26 weeks gestation, but this definition has been expanded to include babies weighing less than 3 pounds and delivered at less than 29 weeks gestation.
- Every day a micro-preemie baby spends inside the womb increases her chances of survival, and every week that goes by pushes the survival percentage even higher. Survival statistics for micro-preemies can range from 2% to over 80%, depending on gestational age at birth.
- In the 1970s, fewer than 25% of micro-preemies survived; in the present, almost 90% are able to go home.
- Very few micro-preemies born at 22 weeks survive, with research reporting rates of between 2% and 15%. At 23 weeks gestation, reported survival rates fall between 15% and 40%, and at 25 weeks gestation, those rates rise to 55-70%. Survival rates for babies born at 26 to 28 weeks gestation fall between 75% and 85%.
- Some of the medical intervention used in NICUs to stabilize and sustain micro-preemies includes isolettes, biliblankets, blood pressure and cardiac monitors, endotracheal tubes, IVs, nasal CPAPs and gastric tubes, oxyhoods and oxygen saturation monitors, respiratory monitors, ventilators, synthetic surfactant, temperature probes, and ultrasounds.
- The majority of micro-preemies will contract at least one infection during their initial hospitalization, with the smallest infants having the highest infection and mortality rates.
- Many micro-preemies are discharged from the hospital still needing medical monitoring equipment and breathing assistance.
- Common difficulties that micro-preemies face include breathing problems due to immature lungs, digestive problems, cerebral hemorrhaging, chronic infections, severe anemia, physical handicaps, developmental and neurological delays, underdeveloped feeding reflexes, visual and auditory impairments, and long-term health issues.