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Help Raise Awareness: The Broad Reach of Prematurity

American Express called me one day. The woman on the line wanted to make sure I understood all of the benefits they had to offer. (NANT uses American Express for all of its transactions.)

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? Because you’ve had this experience.

She told me briefly about good friends of hers who had very premature babies (twins I believe). And how amazing the nurses and therapists had been both in the NICU and in the follow-up they continued to receive after discharge.

She said the babies are flourishing. She guessed that we must have such 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 celebrations that happen with every new milestone both in the NICU and for years after. And the sheer number of people it affects around the world.

I tuck those moments away so that when I’m in the thick of NICU life – the stress, the schedule, the joys and sorrows – I can access that little place that says, “Look around. This is an amazing place to be. What we do comforts, advances, and celebrates life.”

Then I place my schedule back into my scrub pocket, head to the next bedside and begin again, a little clearer than before.

The 500,000 babies born prematurely in the US each year need a legion of advocates.

If you’re one of the thousands reading this, you’re among them.

In the spirit of Prematurity Awareness Month®, the babies thank you.