March of Dimes walk set for Saturday
WalkAmerica event benefits premature births

LAWRENCEVILLE - Molly Lynn Judah was 1 pound, 8 oz. when she was born three months early in March 2007.

Her mother, Jenny, suffered from pre-eclampsia while she was pregnant, a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. As a result, Molly - barely the size of an adult hand at 37 minutes old - endured respiratory and heart complications and was on ventilator at Northside Hospital. While many in her family prepared for the worst - birth defects, expensive care - Jenny, along with her husband, Barclay, kept the faith. The March of Dimes, one of the nation's most storied advocates was on their side, providing the necessary resources that made one of life's scarier journeys a walk to remember.

Four months later - barely a college football season - Molly came home to her parents in Duluth with a clean bill of health. No defects. No ventilator. Two weeks before Molly was scheduled to be born, she was already ahead.

"She's completely healthy," Jenny Judah said. "She just needed time to grow."

More than a half million babies are born prematurely each year; about 340 right here in Georgia. While many babies survive without long-term birth defects, others die or face a lifelong struggle with health issues. Since 1970, the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica has raised more than $117 million in funds to help babies recover from illnesses and live a life like the one Molly is enjoying. The 30-year tradition continues Saturday as more than 13,000 metro Atlanta residents are expected to participate in the four-mile March of Dimes' March for Babies at Lake Lanier. Registration begins at 9 a.m., followed by the event at 10 a.m.

The event is sponsored by Emory Eastside Medical Center, Flagstar Bank, Stiefel Laboratories Inc., Everest Institute, Ricoh Electronics, Inc. and Avon.

March of Dimes events throughout the nation generated more than $1.7 million last year. Funding goes to support services for families with children born prematurely, according to Laura Johnson, a director with the Atlanta office of the March of Dimes.

Johnson said she knows firsthand the importance of such services: Her little boy was born 16 weeks early in 2006.

"I sat in the hospital literally counting every single breath of my baby," she recalls when her son was born. "It's such an emotional journey and it's so valuable to have that system of support that the March of Dimes provides."

SideBar: Health Tips

Laura Johnson, a director with the Atlanta office of the March of Dimes says women can take several proactive measures before they are pregnant to improve their health, including:

· Take folic acid.

· Get a checkup before pregnancy

· Eat right and maintain a healthy weight

· Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke

· Stop drinking alcohol

· Don't use illegal drugs

· Avoid infections

· Limit exposure to hazards

· Learn about genetics

· Avoid stress

For more information about the March of Dimes' March for Babies, call 678-546-0023 or visit www.marchforbabies.org.