Our Giving Day is a critical way for our supporters to help March of Dimes be there for families when they need us most—like those in the NICU. When babies are given the chance to survive and thrive, they can grow to reach their amazing potential.
Lauren LaRosa can't remember a time when she didn't want to grow up and work in the NICU. Her story began in 2002 when she was born preterm at 26 weeks, weighing one pound, seven ounces. She was in the NICU for 89 days, 42 of which she spent on a ventilator. After she went home, she was on oxygen for 15 months and had multiple therapy visits until she was about two years old. But she made it through.
Now her life has come full circle and she’s back where she started: the NICU at Prisma Health Children's Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina. Except this time, she’s on the other side of the glass, studying to become a NICU nurse and receiving support and guidance from her mentor Rachel Balck—the same March of Dimes NICU Family Support® Program Coordinator who helped her family get through her preterm birth. “I really want to give back that same love and care that I received when I was a NICU baby to other families that need it,” Lauren says. “And Rachel now is my mentor.”
Lauren choosing this path makes sense. Her dad, Conrad, says: “Even when she was hooked up with a lot of wires, I saw right through it—that's my daughter, she's breathing, she's beautiful. And unfortunately, she's going through a situation where she's at, but deep down, I looked at her and I knew that she's going to be a fighter.”
Being born just a year after the NICU Family Support program was introduced to hospitals across the country, the LaRosa family was one of the first to benefit from its resources. “Rachel made sure that I was in touch with other moms that had been through that journey,” says Lauren’s mom, Amy. “And even while we were in the NICU, there was another family whose son was born about a month after Lauren, and Rachel got us in touch with them and we walked through the NICU experience together.”
Lauren will be the ideal NICU nurse. She knows first-hand what it’s like to be born with, and overcome, serious challenges. She also understands the impact it has on families. “I think Lauren's experience as a patient and then hearing stories from her mom about what that was like to deliver a very small baby, I think she will continue to carry that perspective and be an incredible health care professional,” Rachel says.
It’s amazing how far Lauren has come. “She’s truly my hero and I look up to her every day,” Amy adds. “I’m just so proud of her, and I can't wait to see the rest of this journey that she’s on.” It goes to show where a baby’s potential can lead, and she’s very grateful to be able to share her story. March of Dimes supported Lauren, and soon she’ll be making a difference for families everywhere.
On this Giving Day, people like you can help us continue protecting the health of moms and babies by funding research, providing resources and programs and advocating for policies to help all families get the best possible start.