75 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis – himself a polio survivor.
Today it’s the March of Dimes. That name was coined in the late 1930s (a play on the contemporary newsreel series “The March of Time”)as the org encouraged children to donate a dime for their annual fundraiser.
Prematurity research really took off after President John F. Kennedy lost his son. You see, neonatology is a relatively recent field. Apparently physicians found it much sexier to perform daring surgeries or cure cancer than coax a tiny baby to breathe. Priorities people! When Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born at 35 weeks and succumbed to respiratory distress two days later, priorities changed. Right quick.
The organization’s mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Because here in the U.S., 1 in 8 babies are born too soon.
I’ve called Search and Destroy the Million Dollar Miracle Muppets because of the odds they overcame as 27-weeker wimpy white boys. But they had the benefit of all the 2010 new millennial medical advances.
In 1963, my cousin (once-removed or something, she’s my mom’s cousin, whatever – she’s family) Nancy Welker was born three months early. One pound, 11 ounces, the suction bulb was larger than her head.
Her mother had to wait four months to hold her daughter. (Nancy, however, now claims to have a fantastic excuse for any potential social gaffe.) Even the nurses didn’t hold the tiny ones at that time. The babies remained in their isolettes, with only the portholes opened for medically necessary procedures.
How do you mother a baby in a plastic box?
Nancy’s a grown up now – crafting Elmo and Kermit blankets for the next generation of preemies. I’m sure they have an innate connection.
Thank you March of Dimes. Happy birthday. And here’s to many more birthdays for all the tiny babies.