Bridgette Haddock of Greenbrier and her husband, Tyler Pate, have had two sons born prematurely who have spent time in the UAMS neonatal intensive care unit.
That unit’s Family Support Program Thursday received a $20,000 donation from the March of Dimes that was funded by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Blue & You Foundation. The donation will pay for education and support programs for parents like them.
According to a press release from UAMS, more than 5,000 babies are born prematurely in Arkansas each year. The NICU has 64 beds.
Haddock and Pate’s first son, Owen Pate, was born prematurely at 29 weeks in 2013, spent four months in the NICU and is now a healthy boy. Rhett Pate was born Jan. 13 at 31 weeks and six days and is currently in the NICU. Normal gestation time is about 40 weeks. Haddock said the program has included instruction in areas such as breast feeding and car seat safety. Classes with other moms have helped her feel less alone. It was hard to pick Rhett up at first because he seemed so fragile. Now he’s learning to bottle feed.
“We’re still struggling. Still struggling day to day. It’s rough, but with the support we’ve got, it makes it a lot easier,” she said.
In 14 years, the Blue and You Foundation has donated more than $24 million to 766 Arkansas health improvement programs. This year, there were 210 applications, of which the foundation was able to fund 40 with $2.9 million in grants, said Patrick O’Sullivan, the foundation’s executive director.
Dr. Whit Hall, a neonatologist, said premature babies can spend months in the NICU and undergo 10-15 painful procedures a day. Parental involvement decreases the pain.
Most babies go home and live normal lives. He said babies born at under 25 weeks gestation have a greater than 50 percent chance of having long-term issues, while babies born later in the pregnancy typically do not have issues.