Lacey Miller of Valley Grove was 26 weeks pregnant with her first child when she thought she was coming down with the flu. She'd had a difficult pregnancy: a 70-pound weight gain despite eating the "right" foods, HELPP syndrome (affecting blood pressure and liver enzymes), and a rarely diagnosed blood disorder.
"My husband (Jim) and I argued about whether or not to go to the hospital that night, because I had just spent a week in the hospital," Miller said. But she went, potentially saving two lives - hers and the baby's.
"My liver proteins were 469; normal is in the 40s. My body was shutting down," she said.
Lacey Miller of Valley Grove enjoys the spring weather with her 3-year-old daughter, Addy Jayne, who was born three months early, weighing only a scant 1 1/2 pounds.
Addy Jayne Miller was born March 15, 2009, weighing 1 1/2 pounds and measuring 13 1/2 inches long.
"I was told she was not going to move or make any sounds because she so small. ... She came out kicking and squeaking. I knew she was going to be a fighter," Lacey Miller said.
Addy had many setbacks, including becoming septic and contracting MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which produced lesions that permanently deformed her hip socket and elbow. She almost died from H1N1 flu, had multiple blood transfusions, eye surgery, two hip surgeries, breathing treatments and a variety of sensory issues among many other problems.
Her mother remained positive. She scoffed at family members and physicians who cautioned Addy might not survive.
Now 3 years old, Addy walks with a walker, wears a contact in her left eye and is still fed through a feeding tube because she can't swallow.
But she has a sweet personality, beautiful smile and she's whip smart, her mother said: "How many 3-year-olds can count to 100 by 10s?"
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According to the March of Dimes, 1 in 8 babies in the U.S. is born premature, which is before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Prematurity is the leading killer of newborns, and the organization is dedicated to reducing the rate of premature births in the U.S. and around the world.
One way it does that is by raising money for research through the annual March for Babies events that take place throughout the U.S. Since 1970, the March of Dimes has raised $2 billion for its mission.
"The money you raise supports programs in your community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. And it funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies," states the March for Babies website, www.marchforbabies.org. Seven million people in 900 U.S. communities will "march for babies" this year.
The Wheeling March for Babies will take place at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Oglebay Park Site One in Wheeling. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. For information, call Sandy Vredinburgh, 304-629-6533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lacey and Jim Miller, both Wheeling Park High School graduates, support the walk by organizing a team and raising money by soliciting donations and selling Team Addy Jayne T-shirts.
"I sold 155 T-shirts this year, so I hope to see a lot of people turn out for my team. All my friends and family have been so helpful and supportive. They come out every year. It's just really awesome to know they all care so much," Miller said.
Miller said supporting the March of Dimes for her is like "paying it forward." March of Dimes-supported research already has helped improve outcomes for babies like Addy Jayne, and she hopes it will continue to help more families in the future.
She said participating in the walk also has been helpful because she has met many families who are persevering through similar circumstances. She doesn't feel comfortable talking to parents of typical babies about some of Addy's issues because they simply don't understand.
"I hear, 'Oh, my daughter's a picky eater, too.' No, you don't understand, my daughter can't eat," she said. However, now also the mother of 11-month-old Adler - whom she carried to term - Miller can better understand the perspective of these parents, too.
She is grateful to West Virginia Birth to Three for all the services they provided to Addy prior to her third birthday, and now she is working with Ohio County Schools to enter Addy in special needs pre-kindergarten in the fall.
"Every day we're thankful for what we've got. I wouldn't change it for the world. Even though she's had to work hard, it makes her special." Miller said.