Marching for Babies

-A A +A
By Neila Schuhmann

Like many expectant parents, Daniel and Cyndi Leathers were amazed at how large Cyndi's belly had grown.

But during a routine prenatal check-up at seven months, the doctor told the couple that her belly was measuring too small. He immediately ordered a non-stress test and later did an ultrasound, during which he discovered there wasn't enough amniotic fluid.

Until that point, Cyndi had enjoyed a normal pregnancy.

She was admitted to the hospital the following day and began having contractions on her own, though she later had to be induced.

Little David was born on Easter morning - just two days after that disturbing check-up. He weighed 4 pounds, 14 ounces and was 18 3/4 inches long.

"They said if he comes out crying, that's good. After they cleaned him out, he starting wailing," his father said. "I'll never forget how tiny he was."

The couple felt lucky because the doctor they had preferred during the entire pregnancy was on call that weekend.

"We always said if anything should happen, we hoped he'd be on call," Daniel said. "God took care of that."

Surprisingly, the baby was released from the hospital just two days later with only a few health concerns. He went home with a heart monitor, a sleep apnea monitor and a "bili" light, which is used to treat jaundice.

"I used to call him 'our little electric baby' because we had to plug him in everywhere we went," his mother said.

David had also had a positive Coombs test. Coombs, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine Web site, occurs when one has antibodies acting against his red blood cells. In David's case, it was a result of his mother's blood type being negative while his blood type is positive.

Like many mothers with a negative blood type, Cyndi had taken the Rhogam shot to prevent this condition, but it didn't work.

His father said they were thankful that he came early, since the Coombs may have created more health problems as the pregnancy progressed.

"You could see God's hand in all of it. If he hadn't come early, we would have never known about the Coombs," he said. "Coming early may have saved him."

Two days after coming home from the hospital, however, David stopped breathing during a nighttime feeding. Though his breathing only stopped for 4 or 5 seconds, the couple said they were terrified.

"We called the doctor and he said, 'Get him in,'" Daniel said. "The first thing we did was pray for him."

"It was a fervent prayer," Cyndi added.

David was admitted to the hospital that night for RSV - respiratory syncytial virus. But according to his father, the respiratory condition, which can be deadly in premature babies, never went to the baby's lungs.

After coming home a couple days later, Daniel said his son started gaining weight quickly. Because of his small size, though, Cyndi said the preemie clothes were still "falling off him."

David was a little slower to begin crawling and walking, but his father said if one were to add on the six weeks' growth he lost in utero, his development would be more in line with full-term babies.

"Everything seemed to happen just right," Daniel said. "[God] saw us through."

Cyndi said she finds it ironic that she went through this experience because she had been involved with the March of Dimes in high school.

"When I was in high school, I did the March of Dimes walk. My mom worked at the health department. She was on the March of Dimes Board," Cyndi said. "I used to raise money for preemies. I never dreamed I'd have one."

Her mother had given her a bottle of folic acid for a wedding gift, she added with a laugh. Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects, a fact discovered through research by the March of Dimes.

Because of all that the March of Dimes has contributed to David's life, in addition to thousands of other babies, the Leathers family wants to do its part in helping to support the organization.

The Leathers family will have a March of Dimes team, called The Scripture Group, in honor of the Bible scriptures that they say helped them through their son's premature birth and recovery. David is serving as this year's March of Dimes Ambassador.

Their team has placed donation buckets at several business locations around town including Garcia's, Panchos, Subway on East Broadway, Mitchell's Men's Wear, Dakota Farms and Twisted Stem.

Daniel said, "You may never know what [the March of Dimes] did 30 years ago that may be helping you today."

The March of Dimes March for Babies event will take place Saturday, Sept. 13 at Miller Park. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the walk begins at 10.

The 3 1/2 mile walk will end with lunch for all the walkers at the finish line. There will also be music, exercise and children's activities throughout the route.

To make a tax-deductible donation, mail a check or money order to: Angie Pierce, 9560 New Columbia Road, Campbellsville, Ky. 42718.

Teams will also be randomly visiting door-to-door in local neighborhoods collecting donations and handing out literature.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. The March of Dimes fund programs of research, community service, education and advocacy that save babies.

For more information, call Amy Strong at (800) 255-5857.

- Social Writer Neila Schuhmann can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 224 or by e-mail at cknj@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.