More than one million babies worldwide died last year because they were born too soon and 14 million more struggled to survive. On Saturday, April 27th, you have a chance to give hope to babies born too soon by participating in the "March for Babies" walk in Milwaukee.
Jaxon Campbell will be walking. He's a funny and friendly four-year old. This sweet little guy is about to turn five and he can't wait. It's a big birthday for him, but every birthday is a big milestone for his mom. Jaxon was born premature-- 17 weeks too soon.
"It was very scary, very overwhelming. I knew that he could have a lot of mental disabilities if he was to survive and that was scary to me. It was very scary to me that he may not survive. It was very scary to me that he may survive a couple of months and then die," Holli Campbell recalls with tears in her eyes.
Jaxon came into the world on April 29th, 2008. At just 23 weeks, he only weighed a little more than a pound.
"We weren't even able to hold him when he was born. We weren't hardly even able to touch his hand. I mean maybe if he was having a good day, we would be able to hold his hand," Campbell explains.
Baby Jax spent more than 100 days in the NICU. He was on a ventilator, getting a ton of medication and even had heart surgery before he was one month old. He would eventually have eye surgeries too.
"Things you and I probably have never been through. It's just heartbreaking to see your child go through all of that," Campbell says.
It was also hard for the rest of the family, including Cambell's sister.
"When I got the call, it was heartbreaking. I can honestly say I've never been so scared in my life," Heidi Pritchett recalls.
Pritchett jumped online and started searching for information about premature babies. She wanted information she could share with her sister. She came across the website for the March of Dimes and found a wealth of information.
"Health education is a huge piece of what we do from a community programming standpoint and then the research is the other part of it and looking to find the reasons why prematurity, birth defects and infant mortality is such a problem," Courtney Rogaczewski, Division Director for the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of the March of Dimes, explains.
When doctors finally allowed the family to bring baby Jax home, everyone was elated, but life there wasn't easy either.
"His alarms would go off in the middle of the night and sometimes he would turn blue from the lack of oxygen he was getting and you'd have to startle him to breathe again. We had hundreds of doctor's appointments back and forth a few times a week if not a few times a day," Campbell says.
Throughout each challenge, the March of Dimes was a wonderful resource and they decided they wanted to get involved with the non-profit. They put together a team for the March for Babies, one of the group's biggest fundraisers.
"I asked a couple of friends if they wanted to walk and before I knew it, I had 30-some walkers and a sponsorship to pay for our t-shirts so we'd stand out and we've grown ever since," Pritchett says.
They walk every year. "I walk for babies. I really want there to be a cure for this," Pritchett continues. Every year, Jaxon is right there with them.
"Jaxon shows the heart of the March of Dimes and why we're here and a lot of the success stories we have to tell," Rogaczewski says.
Campbell says if it wasn't for the March of Dimes, Jaxon might not be here today.
"I mean with all the research they fund and all the new advances they're coming out with, it's from the March of Dimes and that's why Jaxon's here," she says.
You can join Jaxon and "March for Babies" on Saturday April 27th. The walk starts at 10:00 a.m. at O'Donnell Park in Milwaukee.
For more information on the walk and to register, click the link below: