When Ahwatukee Foothills residents Dave and Kelly Damron went to the hospital for their 24-week ultrasound the last thing they wanted to hear from the technician was, "I need to go get the doctor."
"We knew at that point that something wasn't quite right," Dave said. "We went from everything up until that point in the pregnancy was very easy to the uncertainty of are our kids going to be OK?"
The couple had been struggling with infertility for some time and had decided to use in vitro fertilization. They were excited to find out in March of 2004 that they were pregnant with twins, but their world came crashing down when Kelly's water broke at 29 weeks - seven weeks sooner than even the earliest the babies should arrive.
The two little girls, Kaley and Ashley, were born the next week. One was 2 pounds, 11 ounces, the other at just 2 pounds, 9 ounces. Both were sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
"The seven weeks that we spent in the NICU were a complete rollercoaster," Dave said. "We had one of our daughters that everything was pretty much fine. We were scared because, obviously, they were born too early but one of them was just on the up and up and continued to grow more and eat more, and the other one was very much kind of day-to-day. I don't know how many moments we had in the NICU when she would stop breathing or that she had to have a blood transfusion. It breaks your heart sitting there watching anybody's child, but your own child go through ups and downs associated with being born too early. It wasn't a whole lot of fun."
Kaley was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. The disease is most common in premature babies and causes bleeding in the intestines. Once bleeding stops, scar tissue forms and keeps food and digestive material from getting through the intestine. Eventually, she needed surgery.
At around 5 weeks old the tiny girl had 50 percent of her large intestine removed. The surgery was successful and now the only reminder is a large scar across her belly.
The girls came home on Thanksgiving Day in 2004.
Through their experience, the Damrons decided to get involved with organizations doing something about premature birth. They discovered March of Dimes and have been volunteering ever since.
March of Dimes researches the causes of premature birth and is working to ensure all women a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Once a year, in April, the group hosts a March for Babies to raise money for its cause, which the Damrons have participated in each year.
Now, Dave has been asked to join the statewide board of directors for March of Dimes.
Between working as a partner in a large public accounting firm, teaching Junior Achievement and coaching his daughters' soccer team, Damron still finds time to volunteer for a cause he truly believes in.
"I think more than anything I just want people to know that it's there," he said. "From the standpoint of a parent going through what I experienced, know that there's an organization out there trying to make this so that people in the future don't have to go through that. From the standpoint of people that don't necessarily have to go through that, know that it's there and that it's a cause that's trying to do something to eliminate a very serious health concern."
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