Hospitals, families celebrate World Prematurity Day

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:26 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:37 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico Doctors’ Hospital lit up purple to recognize World Prematurity Day on Wednesday and to raise awareness for their tiniest patients.

This comes as new data from the March of Dimes shows the U.S. remains one of the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth.

For preemie families in Central Virginia, the day also served as a moment to reflect on their experience.

It has been a whirlwind of a year for the Weekley family. Fourteen months ago, Blakely Weekley was hooked up to cords in the University of Virginia’s NICU.

“She was 56 days early, and we didn’t know what to expect,” said Erin Weekley, Blakey’s mom. “We were told she could be in the NICU for that whole two months.”

Despite entering the world at only 2 pounds, 11 ounces, and roughly the size of a crocheted octopus from her grandmother, the busy “B” had plans of her own, going home from the NICU in only 26 days.

“Once she came home, she kind of didn’t miss a beat,” Weekley said. “She was able to catch up pretty quickly.

It is something Weekley is thankful for, celebrating World Prematurity Day.

“It was actually a lot more sentimental than I thought it would be for me,” she said.

Nov. 18 would have been Blakely’s original due date back in 2020. While she celebrated her 1st birthday two months ago, the family is focused on sharing B’s story to help others.

“By telling people a little bit about what she went through when she was born early, we’re able to give others peace of mind knowing that they’re not alone,” Weekley said. “We’re able to let others know that this happens and that 32-week, 2.5-pound babies can be healthy and survive, but they do need treatment.”

A new March of Dimes report gives Virginia a C+ when it comes to preterm births. Roughly 9.5% of Virginia babies are born prematurely. The non-profit points to significant disparities when it comes to maternal care, especially for women of color.

“Everyone should have access to prenatal health care and deserves a doctor that’s going to listen to their concerns, and deserves a doctor who is going to take them seriously and make them feel heard,” Weekley said.

While Blakely is in good health, Weekley understands some preemies aren’t as lucky, which is why raising awareness is just as important.

“People who aren’t even affected by premature births are still aware of it, so they can give the support to the people in their lives who are,” she said.

To read more on the March of Dimes report, click here.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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