November is March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Month, part of the organization's continuing effort to inform the public of the causes and ramifications of premature birth and the struggles endured by the parents of premature babies.
A baby is considered premature if born 37 weeks or less into gestation. On average, 12.1 percent of births in America are premature, a figure that has risen by 29 percent since 1981.
Heather and Troy Scott are all too familiar with the challenges of raising a premature baby. The Brazil couple delivered their first child, son Hayden Nicholas, on Sept. 29, a full month before his projected due date of Nov. 30. He weighed just two pounds and 14 ounces at birth, and underwent a seemingly endless series of treatments for a variety of health problems during his 44-day stay in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at Terre Haute's Union Hospital. But despite the seriousness of her son's condition, Heather Scott said she never doubted he would pull through.
"From the very beginning, nobody in my family ever thought Hayden wouldn't make it," she said.
Advances in treatments for prematurity-related ailments have greatly improved rates of survival for premature babies in recent years. Babies born at 31 weeks have a 90 to 95 percent survival rate. Still, Heather Scott said, keeping Hayden alive was a constant struggle.
He was on oxygen for 40 of his 44 days in the hospital. He suffered from sleep apnea and bradycardia, a condition characterized by cessation of breathing and decreased heart rate, and was given liquid caffeine to keep him stimulated. He received two surfactan treatments to combat a lack of moisture in his lungs.
The emotional toll of dealing with a premature infant is great, but the financial strain is no less considerable. Troy Scott works as a quality supervisor at Britt Tool, and Heather said his insurance has been adequate to this point. But they haven't received all the bills yet, and are not entirely clear on what will be covered and what won't. Take, for example, the monthly RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccines Hayden needs through the end of flu season which cost $1000 per treatment.
So far, Hayden has avoided sustaining any long-term complications. But Heather Scott said some prematurity-related complications don't manifest themselves for years.
"We won't know of any lasting complications until a few years from now, but right now he looks great," she said. "So far, he looks to be perfect, but we really won't know until later on."