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Shelbie Ann-Marie Pierce is the 2006 March of Dimes Ambassador Baby

Parents Allen and Angie Pierce share their experience
Reprinted with permission from the
Central Kentucky News Journal
By Neila Schuhmann, Features Writer

Just as mother kangaroos carry their still-developing babies in a pocket, Allen andAngie Pierce cherished similar moments with their infant daughter Shelbie Ann-Marie.

Born 15 weeks early in November 2004, Shelbie's eyelids were still fused and she weighedjust 1 pound, 15 ounces.

"She was perfect on the outside, just internal problems," her mom said.

Angie believes there is a reason her baby was born prematurely.

"I think God gave us extra time with her, because we got to see 100 days of developmentthat other parents don't get to see."

Kangaroo care, as the hospital staff referred to it, is when premature babies haveskin-to-skin contact with their parents. The Pierces would open their shirts and placethe baby against their chests for hours at a time. This contact stimulates growth anddevelopment.

Few parents could reflect on such a traumatic experience with a positive outlook.Pierce, however, uses her personal experience to help other families with prematurebabies through her work with the March of Dimes.

Shelbie is the 2006 March of Dimes Ambassador Baby.

After trying unsuccessfully to conceive for a year, the Pierces learned they wereexpecting a baby on the day they were leaving for a vacation in Florida with extendedfamily. They had been married for eight years.

"We were both very busy," Angie said. "I believe [our families] had given up on ushaving kids. My sister's 10 years older than me. She thought she'd never be an aunt."

While on vacation with their family, the Pierces kept the news to themselves until theycould see a doctor. Angie said keeping the secret with family so close together for aweek was difficult.

"We'd go walking on the beach and talk about names."

Later, when the news was out, it was time for the family to start preparing for baby'sarrival.

During a routine ultrasound on Oct. 29, 2004, the Pierces were looking forward tolearning whether they would be shopping for pink or blue dcor. It was during that visitthe doctor discovered Angie had placenta previa - a condition in which the placentaattaches low in the uterus and covers the cervix.

Shelbie was due to arrive March 5, 2005.

Angie followed her doctor's orders against heavy lifting and continued her daily routineteaching school in Adair County.

But it was just a few weeks later, she recalls, when the baby's condition worsened.

"It was a Sunday morning and I was home alone," Angie said. "Allen had gone deerhunting. I felt something warm. I thought it was my water. It was blood."

After calling 911 and being treated at Taylor Regional Hospital to stop hercontractions, Angie was taken by ambulance to the University of Louisville Hospital.

The following morning, Nov. 22, 2004, Shelbie made an entrance into the world that wouldforever change her parents' lives. With Shelbie in a breech position and the placentalaying low, kicks from the growing baby were more than the life-sustaining placentacould take.

"She had kicked the placenta until it came off the wall," Angie said.

The following 100 days were a rollercoaster of both good days and bad days. Shelbie wasmoved to Kosair Children's Hospital after the first week and was on life support for 71/2 weeks. Angie stayed at the Ronald McDonald House during Shelbie's entirehospitalization. After he returned to work in December, Allen would visit once duringthe week and then return on the weekends.

Five weeks before Shelbie came home, she was moved to Norton's Hospital.

Through a myriad of health complications and treatments - from blood transfusions and anopen vessel to a brain bleed and staph infection, the new mother coped by writing dailyin a journal and reading a preemie "Bible" given to her at the hospital.

"I checked on her five or six times a night."

It was during this time that Angie found strength in sharing with other parents of sickchildren at the Ronald McDonald House.

"I've made friends for a lifetime that I would never have met," Angie said. "It was hardbeing there alone. I'm very social. I made friends with a lot of other parents. Everyweek, someone would lose their baby. Now, I don't take a moment for granted. We spend alot more time together."

Though Angie said she'd always given to the March of Dimes, she never realized untilShelbie's birth how much the organization does.

"Surfactant therapy, she benefited from it," Angie said. "I had been on vitamins forthree years before I got pregnant."

The use of surfactant therapy - which helps improve the breathing of premature babies byopening air sacs in their lungs - and educating mothers about the importance of prenatalvitamins are just a couple examples of the March of Dimes' work.

As ambassador baby, the Pierce family's team, "Shelbie's Angels," had set a goal of$2,000 to be raised for this year's March of Dimes WalkAmerica. Through fundraisers anddonations, the team has nearly doubled its goal.

"We're just trying to get the message out there."

March of Dimes will host its signature fundraising event, "WalkAmerica," inCampbellsville on Saturday, May 13.

"We're going to keep on walking," Angie said. "We feel like every penny counts."

Angie said she has spent many late nights typing letters to businesses and individuals,sharing their story and requesting donations.

"It's a rollercoaster ride, but I want other parents to get through it."

Shelbie and her parents have come through it. At 17 months old, Shelbie's crawling,pulling up, speaking and eating well. And according to her mother, she has never spit upand has only been sick once since coming home.

"I thought being a teacher was exciting. She's definitely the light of my life," Angiesaid. "She wakes up smiling. She goes to bed smiling. She's changed our lives."

Journal Entry

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2005

55 Days Old
7 Weeks, 6 Days

Shelbie,

You've had another good day today. Your weight today is 3 lb, 1 1/2 oz. You are 50 daysfrom your due date. As of 4 p.m., you were receiving 4.7 cc of milk an hour. You seem tostill be digesting your milk well. You are still on the nasal cannula. Most of the day,you were on a flow of 1 1/2 liters at 32 percent. Your blood work still looks good. Youand your daddy did kangaroo care for around 2 hours today. You did well again.Afterwards, he changed your diaper and did well. He is the best father in the world. Youare so lucky to have a father that's so patient. He kissed you on the top of your headafter kangaroo care. You have now been held 12 times in 8 weeks. I hope to hold youagain tomorrow.

Love,
Mom

March of Dimes WalkAmerica

When: Saturday, May 13. Registration is at 9 a.m. The walk begins at 10.

Where: Miller Park's shelter by the pool.

Contact: Susan Hughes at 465-1350.
Copyright 2006 Central Kentucky News Journal


This story was posted on 2006-05-03 10:11:53
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Shelbie Ann-Marie Pierce, a special baby



2006-05-03 - Columbia - Photo courtesy of family. LITTLE SHELBIE ANN-MARIE PIERCE has been chosen the 2006 March of Dimes Ambassador Baby. Her parents Allen and Angie Pierce share their experience.s. March of Dimes Fund-raising events held in Adair County in March and April total $6,000 with a goal to reach $7,000 by May 13th, the date of the walk. Students, faculty and staff at Shepherd Grade Center where Angie teaches first grade have raised $1,000.18. Shelbie's maternal grandparents, Willard and Jean Nokes, live in Columbia along with several aunts, uncles, and cousins. Click 'read more' for the Pierce's heart warming story.
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