Each year, more than a half million babies in the U.S. are born too soon.
Research led by organizations like the March of Dimes aims to reduce that number and, just as importantly, give premature babies a fighting chance at a healthy life.
The Deitcher family knows how much that research is paying off. Mason, now three-and-a-half years old, arrived 11 weeks early. His mom, Tiffany's, membrane ruptured and was leaking amniotic fluid when she was just 27 weeks along.
"All we wanted was for him to be healthy," dad, Eric, said. "Suddenly, we were at the hospital 13 weeks before he was due and we had no idea what to expect."
"It was terrifying," Tiffany recalls.
Tiffany was hospitalized on bed rest and received two shots to betamethasone to encourage Mason's lung, brain and stomach development. 13 days later, Mason decided it was time to meet the world. Both Eric and Tiffany recalled hearing him cry, which was a good sign because it meant his lungs were developed.
Mason was able to breathe on his own, even though he tipped the scales at just three and a half pounds. Doctors ran new tests seemingly every day, but Mason's only major challenge was eating. Acid reflux meant he had a hard time keeping food down.
Two months and three days later, Mason joined big brother Zac at home with a feeding tube and heart monitor, but essentially just fine. He shed the tube in a couple weeks, and the monitor in a couple months.
The Deitchers credit the staff at Stormont-Vail and the research of the March of Dimes for Mason's healthy life. They say their store has taught them more needs to be done.
"A lot of families that don't have this," Eric said. "Every child should have the opportunity for a healthy start."
The Deitchers are serving as the ambassador family for this year's March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala fundraiser. It takes place Thursday, October 30th from 6 to 9 pm at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Topeka. Tickets are $50 each or $80 for two. Call 785-228-0084 or see www.marchofdimes.com/kansas.
The event will also honor one of Stormont's neonatal doctors, Robert Sidlinger.