Until the birth of her son, Noah, Ashley Storey didn't know much about the work of the March of Dimes.
"Noah was born early," said Storey, a Martinez resident whose family is the goodwill ambassador family for the organization's local fundraiser walk Saturday.
Noah was born at St. Joseph Hospital on Aug. 30, 2004, about 12 weeks premature; he weighed only 2 pounds, 11 ounces. Immediately after his birth, he received surfactant therapy for his immature lungs and was transferred to the Medical College of Georgia's neonatal intensive care unit.
Pulmonary surfactant is "a natural soapy substance created by special cells in the alveoli of mature lungs that helps them, like a bubble, balance the pressure on their outside with their internal pressure, and remain open to incoming air," according to the March of Dimes Web site, www.marchofdimes.com.
Premature infants lack this natural surfactant.
After Noah was transferred to MCG, doctors diagnosed him with respiratory distress syndrome, and he received three more surfactant treatments.
Storey said she researched surfactant and found it was through March of Dimes-sponsored research that the artificial surfactant was developed.
"Since then, the number of babies who die from RDS has gone from 10,000 per year to fewer than 1,000," according to the Web site.
Storey said she believes the artificial surfactant helped save her son's life. He went home from the hospital in October 2004, and now shows little sign of having been born prematurely, she said.
Last year, the family put together a team to walk in the fundraiser, and they raised more than $1,500.
She said she wanted to give back to the organization "because of what they'd done with research."
Storey said doctors aren't sure why her son was born prematurely, and she didn't know much about the problems of children born prematurely until she went through it.
"The main thing is to get the word out about prematurity," she said.
She said she hopes by the time Noah is a father premature births will be non-existent.
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