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2022 World Prematurity Day

American Express called me one day. The woman on the line wanted to make sure I understood the benefits they had to offer.

As part of her routine questioning, she asked me what NANT did and who we served. As I explained our vision in one or two sentences, her ‘telecommunication’ voice softened. You know where this is going, right?

She told me briefly about her good friends who had very premature babies (twins, I believe). And how amazing the nurses, therapists, and doctors had been in the NICU and follow-up clinic.

She said the babies are flourishing. She guessed that we have a rewarding job. And I agreed – we do. We continued our conversation and, in less than 5 minutes, had established enough rapport that we wished each other well at the end of the call.

You’ve been there. You’re at a party or on an airplane, and someone asks what you do for a living. About 90% of the time, the other person responds softly – they know someone, or were someone – someone whose baby (or babies) spent time in the NICU. They thank you for doing what you do.

It’s moments like this that remind me of the scope of prematurity. The obvious toll it takes on families and friends. The celebration of every new milestone in the NICU and for years after. And the sheer number of people it affects around the world.

As neonatal therapists, we tuck those moments away so that when we’re in the thick of our workdays – the stress, the schedule, the joys, and sorrows – we can access that place that says, “Look around. The NICU is an amazing place to be. What we do comforts, advances, and celebrates life.” Then we head to the next bedside and begin again, a little clearer than before.

The estimated 15 million babies born preterm globally each year need a legion of advocates. If you’re reading this, you’re among them.

In the spirit of Prematurity Awareness Month, and World Prematurity Day this Thursday, November 17th, the babies thank you.