Lauren McKenzie, now 11 years-old. Her mother, Tara McKenzie, submitted these photos. “I recall getting so much hope and relief from seeing ‘before & after’ photos of former premature babies when we were in the NICU when Lauren was born,” said Tara McKenzie.

McKenzie continues, “Our daughter was born 6.5 weeks early and was in the University of Michigan NICU for 10 days. She was released to home care with oxygen for 6 weeks. She weighed 5 pounds and gave us quite a scare. But she thrived and is now at the 99 percentile for height and is a competitive swimmer.”

77 plays

Sara Bokesch shares a story about her daughter Audrey. Audrey was born at 27 weeks-old. She had a long stay in the NICU followed by lots and lots of treatment and therapy. Bokesch recalls a moment of joy and relief when Audrey was in first grade and defied her mothers expectations.

53 plays

Tracy Rodriguez talks about her son Christopher, who passed away at 3 months old. Tracy was taking part in a SIDS walk sponsored by Tomorrow’s Child when she spoke with State of Opportunity’s Jennifer Guerra.

Cheryl Haggard was photographed with her son Maddux after his death. Cheryl shares the story of why she wanted these photographs. She and the photographer later founded Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit  that has provided thousands of families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits.
Maddux Achilles Haggard was born on Feb. 4, 2005, with a condition called myotubular myopathy. 
It prevented him from breathing, swallowing or moving on his own. On the sixth day of his young life, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support. But before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’ to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son. Puc’ photographed the couple with Maddux at the hospital before he was removed from life support and after — when he was free from the tubes and the wires that had sustained him.
That night was the worst night of my life. But when I look at the images, I am not reminded of my worst night. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought into our lives.
Since NILMDTS was founded, over 11,000 volunteers have been part of the network.  NILMDTS reaches every state in the United States and has been or is present in 35 countries worldwide.

Cheryl Haggard was photographed with her son Maddux after his death. Cheryl shares the story of why she wanted these photographs. She and the photographer later founded Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit  that has provided thousands of families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits.

Maddux Achilles Haggard was born on Feb. 4, 2005, with a condition called myotubular myopathy.

It prevented him from breathing, swallowing or moving on his own. On the sixth day of his young life, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support. But before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’ to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son. Puc’ photographed the couple with Maddux at the hospital before he was removed from life support and after — when he was free from the tubes and the wires that had sustained him.

That night was the worst night of my life. But when I look at the images, I am not reminded of my worst night. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought into our lives.

Since NILMDTS was founded, over 11,000 volunteers have been part of the network.  NILMDTS reaches every state in the United States and has been or is present in 35 countries worldwide.

A photo of four-year-old Liam. His mom, Betsy Nolan shared this story of their NICU stay and their lives since then.
My bright, blue-eyed boy is 4 waiting to be 14 so he can drive. First, it would be great if he could learn to walk. Born with spastic diplegia, a form of Cerebral Palsy, Liam spends his day singing and chatting as learns to self-feed, potty training and independent movement. 
Right now, he’s doing all that through the Conductive Learning Center a place just for special needs kids. He’s been in Physical and Occupation therapy since he was one. 
He loves being a kid, driving his wheelchair through leaves and “racing” in a walker. For Halloween he’s decided to be a pumpkin. He’s learning his letters so when he grows up to be a bus driver he’ll know which streets to take. 
The world of the NICU is an interesting one. We had the privilege of seeing two. The first was Methodist Hospital outside Gary, Indiana where Liam was born in April 2008 while we were traveling. He was born at 33 weeks and transported after a few days to Spectrum, Butterworth in downtown Grand Rapids before it became Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. 
[[MORE]]
We had great nurses, not so great nurses, noisy neighbors, and quiet ones. Some days there were set backs and others held small victories. The happiest day was the day we went home. 
A year or so after Liam was born early we experienced an early miscarriage. I learned to advocate for my child early on in his life but I still had not learned to advocate for my own health. 
We have learned what it means to love each other. Selfishness and fear have had to move over and move out. In their place we have found a community of friends and family who have helped us stay strong in our marriage, our faith, and our finances while raising a special needs child. 
We did not choose this life but we would not trade it for anything. To have hope, happiness, and love is a gift and it has come through all we’ve learned.

A photo of four-year-old Liam. His mom, Betsy Nolan shared this story of their NICU stay and their lives since then.

My bright, blue-eyed boy is 4 waiting to be 14 so he can drive. First, it would be great if he could learn to walk. Born with spastic diplegia, a form of Cerebral Palsy, Liam spends his day singing and chatting as learns to self-feed, potty training and independent movement.

Right now, he’s doing all that through the Conductive Learning Center a place just for special needs kids. He’s been in Physical and Occupation therapy since he was one.

He loves being a kid, driving his wheelchair through leaves and “racing” in a walker. For Halloween he’s decided to be a pumpkin. He’s learning his letters so when he grows up to be a bus driver he’ll know which streets to take.

The world of the NICU is an interesting one. We had the privilege of seeing two. The first was Methodist Hospital outside Gary, Indiana where Liam was born in April 2008 while we were traveling. He was born at 33 weeks and transported after a few days to Spectrum, Butterworth in downtown Grand Rapids before it became Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Why it’s worth talking about infant mortality

Infant mortality is unacceptably high in many places within the United States. One of these places is Michigan. There are only 11 states where a baby is more likely to die before their first birthday.

Within Michigan there are even cities with infant mortality rates higher than several under-developed countries.

We know that babies born too early or too small are more likely to be beset with complications after birth and less likely to survive, but there is much more to the phenomenon.

We invite you to share a story about a baby that was too small or too early or about infant loss as part of our coverage of infant mortality.

Share your story here. We will post stories here and on the State of Opportunity website.

17 plays

Ebony Evans takes part in a SIDS walk at a park in Westland sponsored by Tomorrow’s Child. She talks about her son Michael Javon Evans to State of Opportunity’s Jennifer Guerra. Ebony and her husband now have a healthy and happy six year old daughter named Essence.

The loss of Tyler Phillip and a medical discovery

Tyler Phillip was stillborn January 14, 2004 at 30 weeks. At my eight month appointment the doctor was unable to hear a heartbeat so he sent me for an ultrasound.

There was no heartbeat at that time, and I would have to give birth the next day. He was born weighing 1 pound and 1 ounce. I had to demand an autopsy because it was not protocol to do one. The autopsy revealed a blood clot in the placenta.

I had no idea this could even happen.

I was living in Greenville, Michigan at the time. Because it was such a small community, there weren’t any options for me to talk to other parents or even attend grief groups. There were a few things I was given by the hospital but none of them were local, just online.

One thing I noted was how no one - not even my best friend and my husband at the time - could talk about it with me.

Now I know of many places for support but I really think hospitals can do a much better job of helping parents who suffer a loss.

My husband and I divorced - over the loss of our son and a few other things - and I moved to Ann Arbor for a job. A few months after that I read an article about a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. It mainly affects white women of European descent, is a genetic mutation, and can result in mild to severe blood clots.

Finnegan Akers getting a bath in the NICU at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing Michigan. Finnegan’s dad, Tim, shared this story.
Finnegan was born about nine and one-half weeks early due to preeclampsia. He was 16.5 inches, 3 pounds and 11 ounces. He has experienced a number of preterm issues, most related to his lack of lung development and digestion (reflux) issues. 
Finnegan’s prematurity necessitated a rather long stay at the Sparrow NICU. He was admitted on the day of his birth July 29, 2012.
Our experience was phenomenal, considering the circumstances. The nursing staff in particular did a wonderful job setting our minds at ease, keeping us informed at every turn. 
The most difficult part of the whole experience would have to be the sudden swings in Finnegan’s condition. One day, he would be completely stable, seemingly making progress at an unreal pace; the next day, he would have an episode that would set him back a week. In order to bring him home, he had to go seven days without any events (breathing, heart rate, etc.). At one at one point he went six days, only to have an episode and reset the clock. After becoming the “veterans” of the NICU, we began to share the need for patience with other parents. The impulse to grow angry with the doctors is great, but preemies are on their own schedule. 
My wife Cori and I just brought Finnegan home today (October 8, 2012)!! After spending every day of the last 10 weeks in the NICU, we look forward to spending some time at home with him, learning to be parents.

Finnegan Akers getting a bath in the NICU at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing Michigan. Finnegan’s dad, Tim, shared this story.

Finnegan was born about nine and one-half weeks early due to preeclampsia. He was 16.5 inches, 3 pounds and 11 ounces. He has experienced a number of preterm issues, most related to his lack of lung development and digestion (reflux) issues.

Finnegan’s prematurity necessitated a rather long stay at the Sparrow NICU. He was admitted on the day of his birth July 29, 2012.

Our experience was phenomenal, considering the circumstances. The nursing staff in particular did a wonderful job setting our minds at ease, keeping us informed at every turn.

The most difficult part of the whole experience would have to be the sudden swings in Finnegan’s condition. One day, he would be completely stable, seemingly making progress at an unreal pace; the next day, he would have an episode that would set him back a week. In order to bring him home, he had to go seven days without any events (breathing, heart rate, etc.). At one at one point he went six days, only to have an episode and reset the clock. After becoming the “veterans” of the NICU, we began to share the need for patience with other parents. The impulse to grow angry with the doctors is great, but preemies are on their own schedule.

My wife Cori and I just brought Finnegan home today (October 8, 2012)!! After spending every day of the last 10 weeks in the NICU, we look forward to spending some time at home with him, learning to be parents.