A curious and outgoing toddler, Leah Harris easily endears herself to those around her with a flash of her dimpled smile. This weekend, she hopes to enchant a television audience during a charity telethon.
Though she's now healthy, the 18-month-old nearly died at birth.
Born nearly three months premature to Ivy and Allen Harris of Grovetown, Leah and her mother suffered from toxemia, a potentially fatal pregnancy disease for both mother and unborn child.
Leah entered the world weighing just 1 pound, 10 ounces -- less than a small bunch of bananas.
"She was like a block of cheese. She was very little," Harris said. Leah was born with immature lungs, was very touch-sensitive and couldn't regulate her body temperature. "When I did go see her in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), her hand could not even go around the tip of my (pinky) finger. That's how small she was."
After three months in the Medical College of Georgia's Children's Medical Center, doctors allowed Leah to go home with a heart monitor and oxygen.
At her first birthday, Leah had not returned to the hospital, had no residual medical problems and was given a clean bill of health from the hospital's high-risk clinic, Harris said. Her growth is on par with other children her age, she has a more than 15-word vocabulary and can count to three.
"She is totally a miracle," Harris said.
Leah's family is one of two Columbia County families that will be featured this weekend during the Children's Miracle Network Celebration, broadcast on NBC Augusta from the medical center lobby 8-11 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sunday.
Also featured is 8-year-old Bryce Canfield, a Belair Elementary School second-grader, undergoing treatment for embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer affecting children.
Harris said she attributes her daughter's miraculous recovery to her strong faith and the staff of the medical center.
"MCG, the hospital, has been wonderful," Harris said. "The doctors are very knowledgeable. The nurses, I couldn't ask for a better staff to take care of her. The nurses were awesome."
Harris said the hospital staff gave her the freedom to be a first-time mother, despite her daughter's then-grave condition. Harris said she visited Leah twice, sometimes three times, each day. She always gave Leah her 8 p.m. bath and preferred to change the bedding of the incubator Leah spent nearly three months in.
"God just gave me the courage to do what I had to do," Harris said. "Motherhood just kicked in. I didn't want the nurses doing it. They do the medical part. I did everything else. ... I was very adamant about it. I wanted to do everything."
MCG has the region's only pediatric hospital, pediatric emergency department and pediatric trauma center with air and ground transportation. It has been supported by the Children's Miracle Network since 1986.
Along with stories of local families' experiences at the medical center, the celebration broadcast will include video tours of the medical center and interviews with patients, doctors and staff.
Pledges will be accepted during the broadcast by calling (706) 721-3957, or online at www.mcghealth.org/Childrens_Medical_Center and following the links to the Children's Miracle Network. All the money raised during the telethon helps fund the medical center and its many programs.
"We can't wait," Harris said of seeing the locally-broadcast segment her family taped two weeks ahead of time. "Everybody wants to see it."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.