NICU support groups cradle families

Published On: Apr 27 2012 03:05:58 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 27 2012 03:01:01 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

You probably know the March for Babies raises funds for the March of Dimes, but you may not know just how the agency's programs make a difference in the lives of families every day.

Miguel Mejia was born via emergency C-section three months premature, a mere 1 pound, 12 ounces.

He spent 110 agonizing days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Woman's Hospital of Texas.

Miguel's mom, Lillian, told Local 2, "The NICU experience is a very hard experience,"

Lillian Mejia said she got through those days thanks to a lot of prayer and the March of Dimes' NICU Family Support Programs.

Family Support Specialist Angela Martinez explained, "Sometimes babies can be here for days or weeks or even months and it takes a toll on these families."

Martinez makes sure families are part of special events which prove to be cathartic.

She said, "Once a month, we do things like scrapbooking or decorating onsies, just something so they feel like they're doing something for their families."

Mom Laura Mercadante told Local 2, "(The March of Dimes) gave me lots of literature on what it would be like to have a premature infant, and that really helped me a lot because not knowing what to expect. Having that information felt like power."

Mercandante's twin girls, Lyla Grace and Clara Anne, are now a year old.

Born at 31 weeks gestation, the twins were in the NICU for seven long weeks.

With four other kids at home, it was a trying time.

Mercandante explained, "You feel very isolated when you're not at home with your family and friends. So, you get together once a week and I'd meet all the other people who were here with similar issues."

The Mejias will walk in the March for Babies with team shirts reading, "NICU 3 Veterans" symbolizing 6-month-old Miguel's battle.

They'll join other families who waged the same war and won.

Mejia said, "It kind of helps to put your own story in perspective and it helps you to cope with what you're going through. I just think he's a miracle. He amazes me every day."

KPRC Local 2 is a proud sponsor of the March for Babies. To help, join the March For Babies walk on Sunday. For more information, visit http://marchforbabies.org.