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National Ambassador for March of Dimes visits Gwinnett Medical Center

Aidan and Jill Lamothe look in on one of the NICU’s residents, Eva Schmidt. (Staff Intern: Danielle Ryan)

Aidan and Jill Lamothe look in on one of the NICU’s residents, Eva Schmidt. (Staff Intern: Danielle Ryan)

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Jill Lamothe helps Aidan adjust the Beads of Courage necklace given to him by the nurses of Gwinnett Medical Center’s NICU. (Staff Intern: Danielle Ryan)

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Aidan proudly displays his Beads of Courage necklace. The necklaces are made for infants in the Gwinnett Medical Center NICU to show how far they’ve come. (Staff Intern: Danielle Ryan)

For anyone watching 6-year-old Aidan Lamothe sign postcards for nurses at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Gwinnett Medical Center on Tuesday, it would be impossible to guess that he was born 12 weeks early and weighed only 3 pounds at birth. Aidan is a success story for NICUs, and he is 2014’s National Ambassador for the March of Dimes.

Aidan’s visit Tuesday was to promote the March of Dimes, which has marches scheduled in downtown Atlanta and Gwinnett next Saturday, April 26. April is the national March for Babies month.

Aidan and his family, Jill and Aidan Lamothe, have a fundraising goal of $35,000 this year. It was Aidan’s idea to be the National Ambassador for March of Dimes, and after being passed over for selection last year, he got his wish in 2014. The family is based out of New Hampshire and has been travelling the country to promote the March of Dimes and put a face to the cause.

During Aidan’s visit his mother shared stories of his difficult first seven weeks in the hospital.

“Aidan was so small that a nurse put his father’s wedding ring around his wrist as a bracelet,” she said.

Gwinnett Medical Center has a level 2 NICU, with an average of 25 babies in their care at any time. On the day of Aidan’s visit, there were 36 babies in the NICU, with 15 babies under 2 pounds.

During Aidan’s visit to the unit, he took a peek at two tiny patients, twins Joshua and Eva Schmidt. Their mother, Nicole, was heartened to see the healthy kindergartener who had once been in the same situation as her little ones.

Cathie Bracell, director of the Women’s Pavillion at Gwinnett Medical Center, has been walking in marches for the March of Dimes for 35 years. She is the chair for March of Dimes in Gwinnett and has set a fundraising goal of $15,000 for the NICU team.

“We serve 20 counties and have over 100 transports from other hospitals a year,” she said. “The babies often need specialized breathing treatments with nitric oxide, which costs $168 per hour. The average healthy vaginal delivery costs $10,000, but the average neonatal delivery and stay can cost upwards of $50,000.”

The nurses of the NICU are helping to raise funds through “polar plunges”, jumping into lakes, rivers, swimming pools and ice-filled bathtubs at $10 a plunge.

The March of Dimes doesn’t only affect those with infants in the NICU, as they have provide vital research in the fields of obstetrics and infant health.

“The March of Dimes touches everybody,” Jill Lamothe said. “Anyone who’s had the heel stick to test for genetic disorders or taken folic acid during pregnancy has been affected by their research.”

It’s not too late to sign up and march for babies. Unlike other walks, there is no minimum donation required to walk.

“The walks are a celebration of those who made it and to remember those who are not with us,” said Jill. “It shows how far we’ve come.”

For more information, visit marchofdimes.com.