Valentine’s Day was hopeful as well as heart breaking for those who participated in the kick off for the March of Dimes 2017 Tri-City March for Babies to be held on May 6 at Elkin Municipal Park.
As the Ambassador Family shared their story, listeners could not help but be touched. Richie Swaim revealed how he and wife Monica both wanted large families, particularly twin boys even though neither had genetic disposition for twins. Nearly three years ago, an ultrasound tech revealed to them that, “the miracle we believed in, the miracle we hoped for” had come true, said Swaim.
After 23 weeks of pre-natal care which was initiated by the research done through March of Dimes (MOD), Monica nearly went into labor, but with care and bedrest, she was able to make it to the 28 weeks recommended by the doctors. “Why shouldn’t we believe that we couldn’t wait,” said Swaim, “we had already seen a miracle.”
Sterlin and Gunnison were born on Feb. 14, 2015, weighing just over two pounds each and went straight into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “No parent ever imagines being a NICU parent,” stated Swaim.
Common in premature babies, Gunnison had a heart murmur which is often treated by medicine or surgery, thanks to the efforts of MOD. “Why wouldn’t we chose to believe in a miracle?” asked Swaim, who explained that medicine healed the hole in Gunnison’s heart.
Although Gunnison’s heart was healed it was discovered that he had Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), which is a hole in the intestines. As the Swaims were waiting for their son to emerge from corrective surgery, “we couldn’t help believing in another miracle,” said Swaim. “We were totally surrendered to a perfect plan.”
Swaim said the doctor appeared describing the procedure as “going as good as it could have” and the staff began preparing him and his wife for life outside the NICU with information gathered from years of experience and the results of research done through funding by the MOD marches.
“You never plan on preaching at your son’s funeral,” revealed a teary Swaim as he spoke of Gunnison’s passing at 14 days old in spite of the many miracles the Swaims had experienced.
“Sterlin kisses Gunnison’s picture every day,” said Swaim, who praised the strength of his wife and marveled at their ability to bolster others because of the moment of absolute faith they experienced during the surgery.
Although Gunnison was only 14 days old when he died, his headstone reads, “impacted thousands of lives” because of the Swaims’ ability and need to share their story to encourage others. As the local Ambassador Family, they put a human face on the cause of MOD reminding participants, “you’re fighting for the people in your community,” according to Jamie Southern, Tri-City manager for the MOD.
“When someone just takes the time to listen to our story, it brings a little bit of healing,” claimed Swaim, who was grateful to share his family’s story on the birthday of his twins. Holding recent addition to the family, Riser, Monica agreed, “We are so thankful to be able to share our boys with everyone.”
Kevin Austin of Austin Electrical Enclosures was encouraged to become chairman for the region not only because of the nearly 30 years of participation his company has had with MOD, but because of his own personal experience with a premature infant. “Some of the comfort we had as we went through those concerns were assuaged by organizations like March of Dimes.”
“We are all March of Dimes babies whether you know it or not,” explained Southern, illustrating her point with the reminder that much of what is done for pregnant mothers came from research done by MOD as well as the Polio vaccination and the specialized care received through NICUs.
“The funds we raise, the research we do, will change lives and make an impact,” stated MOD intern Alexia Hall.
To form a team, register for the March or find out more information about the March of Dimes, visit marchforbabies.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.