Elise Jackson of Chicago was healthy and doing everything right when her water broke halfway through her pregnancy. After 5 weeks of bed rest in the hospital and careful monitoring, she and her husband, Todd, welcomed their son into the world on 5/8/02 at 25 weeks.
He weighed just over a pound and was 11 inches long, which is the length of a sheet of paper. Everything happened so suddenly, explains Elise, that “there wasn’t time for me to take in the magnitude of the situation — the birth of my only child, the fact that he arrived months earlier than expected, and the incredibly long journey ahead for our family.”
Elijah spent 7 months in a newborn intensive care unit where he had heart surgery and received treatment for respiratory and digestive problems, anemia and jaundice. When his happy parents finally took him home, he continued to be monitored with a feeding tube, respiratory support and a trach in his throat to help him breathe easier. Elijah’s medical bills totaled more than $1.2 million.
Today, at 12, Elijah is a student and basketball fan. As he continues to overcome challenges, he inspires others, especially his parents. Elise, a March of Dimes volunteer for 10 years, rallies her colleagues at United year round, while Todd, a member of March of Dimes national service partner Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., also helps lead the local March for Babies® walks and their family team. As the 2015 National Ambassador, Elijah and his parents will travel the country to share his story and raise awareness of premature birth.
See Elijah’s story here