Fairfield March for Babies steps up for premature birth issues
FAIRFIELD — When Virginia Kent was born in 2011 she weighed just 1 pound and 7 ounces.
“She was unimaginably small,” recalled her mother, Alyssa Kent. “She was just about the length of my hand, and her head was the size of an orange.”
Today, Virginia is a healthy 4-year-old. The youngster and her family will lead the March of Dimes Fairfield March for Babies on May 1 at Jennings Beach as the event’s 2016 Ambassadors.
“It’s a way to give back,” Alyssa Kent said. “I feel like I’ve gotten much more than I’ve been given.”
When she was 21 weeks pregnant a routine doctor’s visit indicated that she might have a condition called cervical incompetency that could lead to very premature birth of the child. A week later she was hospitalized, and the Kents spent the next month being grateful for every additional day their daughter remained in the womb. But at 25 weeks — between 5 and 6 months of her mother’s pregnancy — Virginia was delivered, and the doctors didn’t offer much hope for her survival, her mother said.
“They painted a very grim picture for us. There was not a lot of hope,” she said.
But little Ginny came home after 124 days in Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. And her mother now works to offer other parents of premature babies the support they got from the March of Dimes, and to help educate the public about how to prevent and treat premature births.
Kent, an architect, and her husband, Heath, have raised more than $43,000 with their team “Go Ginny Go,” since their first fundraising walk for the March of Dimes in 2012. They hope to meet their $50,000 goal this year with the Fairfield March for Babies. The family wants others to be able to get the same support they got during their ordeal, such as the help of a family support specialist at Yale-New Haven, and a Family Advisory Council that can help provide whatever families of premature infants need — support at night, seminars, lactation information and events to get families together who are struggling with similar early birth experiences.
“It was like having an extra friend,” Kent recalled.
She is especially grateful for a treatment that her daughter received, supported by March of Dimes research, called surfactant therapy, which kept the baby’s lungs from collapsing. Kent was also able to undergo a procedure herself that helped her deliver a healthy full-term baby last year — a son, Hank. And his arrival on time is another development she credits to networking through the March of Dimes to find a medical solution to her condition.
Now she works to help spread awareness of the organization’s mission and to help raise money — especially to help the nonprofit’s research arm.
The Kent family has been so grateful for the help and support they’ve received, she said, that they want help others dealing with the issues they faced with premature birth.
“I’m passionate about prematurity awareness,” Kent said.
The Fairfield March for Babies will take place Sunday, May 1, at Jennings Beach. Registration starts at 10 a.m., with the walk beginning at 11. Walkers can also register online in advance at www.marchofdimes.org/ct .