POSTED: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 7:42pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 11:59am
Mother Frances Hospital opens it neonatal intensive care unit Nov. 17th
TYLER - It's a special day for baby Tyler Jones.
Born seven weeks premature at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, little Tyler spent the last month in intensive care.
He fought every second for his life.
"I was shocked because he was so little," said proud papa, James Jones. "He weighed four pounds and one ounce."
But now he's stronger, healthier and finally going home.
"He's been up here a little over a month," said Jones, the father of two. "But i didn't have to worry about him. They did an excellent job with him."
Soon, there will be other success stories like baby Tyler's in East Texas.
Mother Frances Hospital opens it neonatal intensive care unit Nov. 17th.
It's the first of it's kind in our area.
It will be easier on the wallet and less stress for families.
Officials at the hospital tell us each year 3,000 babies are born at Mother Frances Hospital. Of those, hundreds are born premature. In the past, the critically-ill patients would be transported to other hospitals across the state. Now, they'll be able to stay right here in Tyler.
Before - the fragile babies healed in Dallas or Shreveport.
According to the Associated Press, the odds of having a premature baby are lowest in Vermont and highest in Mississippi. The March of Dimes mapped the stark state-by-state disparities in what it called a "report card" on prematurity Wednesday - to track progress toward meeting a federal goal of lowering preterm births.
More than half a million U.S. babies - one in every eight - are born premature each year, a toll that's risen steadily for two decades. The government's goal: No more than 7.6 percent of babies born before completion of the 37th week of pregnancy.
Preterm birth can affect any mother-to-be, stressed a recent U.S. Surgeon General's meeting on the problem. Scientists don't understand all the complex causes.
In Vermont, 9 percent of babies were preemies in 2005, the latest available data. In Oregon and Connecticut, just under 10.5 percent of babies were premature.
Travel south, and prematurity steadily worsens: In West Virginia, 14.4 percent of babies were preemies; more than 15 percent in Kentucky and South Carolina; more than 16 percent in Alabama and Louisiana; and a high of 18.8 percent in Mississippi.
Dr. Brenda Morris says transporting babies puts a dent in parent's wallets - and their hearts.
"It's very emotionally draining for the family," said Dr. Brenda Morris. "A lot of parents feel guilty."
Dr. Morris heads up the neonatal unit.
"We hope they can get world-class treatment here at home," she said, "And not have to be sent out."
After Tyler's fight for life - going home - is a moment his dad has been "pushing" for.
"I finally get to take him home," said Jones.
The March of Dimes report  (released Nov. 12) urges states to address three factors that play a role:
- Lack of insurance, which translates into missed or late prenatal care. In states with the highest prematurity rates, at least one in five women of childbearing age are uninsured. Early prenatal care can identify risks for preterm labor and sometimes lower them.
- Smoking increases the risks of prematurity, low birthweight and birth defects. Government figures suggest 17 percent of women smoke during pregnancy. The new report urged targeting smoking by all women of childbearing age. About a third of those women smoke in Louisiana and West Virginia, the report says, compared with 9.3 percent and 11 percent in Utah and California, respectively.
- Then there's the trickier issue of so-called late preemies, babies born between 34 and 37 weeks. They're fueling the nation's prematurity rise. While not as devastating as a baby born months early, being even a few weeks early can cause learning or behavioral delays and other problems. And recent research suggests at least some near-term babies are due to Caesarean sections scheduled before full-term, either deliberately or because of confusion about the fetus's exact age.