A preemie success story

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Today I met a preemie who was an inspiration.

I went to my physical therapy session to treat an injured shoulder, and a new PT aide greeted me with a huge smile and got me settled into my usual routine. Her name is Danielle, or “Dani” and since we were both new to one another, we started chatting. Somehow I started talking about the March of Dimes, (big surprise) and she told me that she had been born prematurely,– only 3 lbs. 2 ounces – at 32 weeks, and her twin, sadly, did not make it.

As I pedaled away on the arm ergometer, she told me about all of the medical problems she had at birth – a congenital heart defect (patent ductus arteriosus or PDA which required a metal closure to be surgically implanted, ) a murmur, a perforated rectum, and other complications. There were more surgeries than she could remember, not to mention having had a colostomy. Her preemie problems extended in to her childhood as she had several other surgeries. Numerous therapies followed the surgeries, especially OT and PT. In high school, she set a goal to be healthy and back on her feet in time for her prom, and she was successful!

There was something about this young lady, however, that made me almost think she couldn’t be right. Was she kidding me? As she ran around the room taking care of physical therapy patients, her spritely walk and engaging personality did not reveal that this fighter had had such a difficult start. Quite the opposite.

Danielle defied many of the predictions that doctors had made in those early days (25 years ago). She credits her mother for letting her live a normal life despite her fears of Dani hurting herself or facing serious problems from being so active. And active she was! Dani started gymnastics at the age of 2 and continued all through childhood and into high school. She played basketball and ran high school Varsity track in 7th grade competing against kids much older. She still loves to be active. In fact, she said she occasionally walks on her hands in the PT room, just for fun!

It was Dani’s post surgery physical therapy that inspired her to go into the field. She earned a bachelors degree in biology and is on schedule to graduate from a physical therapy assistant program in the spring of 2013. But why stop there? This preemie fighter is continuing to push the limits – she is waiting to hear if she has been accepted to a doctoral program in physical therapy, because she doesn’t feel she has fulfilled her true potential yet (nothing like an underachiever…right?). Dani is looking forward to specializing in cardiac rehab with children, especially preemies, where she feels she can make a difference. I bet she will. Danielle says her motto is “anything is possible. The word impossible contains the word possible.” She definitely practices what she preaches.

I was happy to discover that both Dani and her mother had participated in March of Dimes activities throughout the years. I am honored that she did. I’d like to think that many of the March of Dimes’ researchers and discoveries helped Dani to become the incredible young lady she is today. If so, it makes me smile. But, perhaps more importantly, it is Dani who is an inspiration to anyone who meets her, especially if you are a preemie or a person with a disability.

So, for all of you parents out there who feel that having a preemie (especially one with medical challenges) is all doom and gloom, you had best think about Danielle. Don’t underestimate your little one’s future – you never know what she will do or achieve!

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3 Responses to “A preemie success story”

  1. Erlinda Correa Says:

    Hi, I was born 5weeks early in 1973. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 13months old. I had a learning disability when I was in school but because of a dedicated teacher and friend of my mother she helped me get through my first 2yrs of elementary. Now that I am getting older I have quite a few medical issues. I have Functional Dyspepsia whis is a form of Acid Reflux, also I have a slow hearing problem. I was also diagnosed with Asthma in 2002 and diabetes, High blood pressure and high cholesterol in 2011. I was wondering what they found out in studies about premature babies as they get older. Before I forget I did join the U.S. Army after High School and served 15yrs until I was medical boarded out. I have arthritis all over and they just realized that it has to do with my being born early.
    Is there a website that I can go too to find out more about the medical issues as an adult for being born prematurly?
    God Bless your therapist and God Bless you for recognizing what she has accomplished in her life.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Hello Erlinda,

    Thank you for responding to the preemie success story post. You, too, are a success story!

    The long term effects of prematurity are still being studied, and are not yet conclusive. However, there seems to be a body of research that indicates that certain physiological changes take place in a preemie that may have long lasting effects. Please see this article which explains some of the research:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3390308/

    It is clear that more research needs to be done in this area. Thanks again for your interest.

  3. Demara Brake Says:

    Hmmm, I was born in January 1973 but was due to be an April baby. At 39 I was just diagnosed with asthma. No arthritis as of yet. Poor eyesight though–myopia. Let’s just say I’d be truly lost without corrected vision. Otherwise, healthy–or at least, I like to think so, and my medical reports correspond to that fact. Nevertheless, I believe that thinking so makes me so.

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