Families of preemies find strength, support in March of Dimes

Marcus Madison, his wife Kenisha Madison and their daughter Victoria Madison, 6, visit with newborn Marcus Madison Jr. on Monday at the NICU at UF Health Shands Hospital. Marcus Jr. was born premature on Feb. 13 at 3 pounds and 1 ounce.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.

Kenisha Madison had prepared herself for as painless a labor process as possible, requesting an epidural and other pain medications.


Get involved

To participate in the Walk for Babies, or donate to the March of Dimes:
Race details:
Register online, or on-site on Saturday at 7 a.m. at Westwood Middle School Athletic Field on Northwest 34th Street in Gainesville. Race starts at 8 a.m. There will be an awards party and luncheon at 11:30 a.m. For more information, please contact Kyle Croft at kcroft@marchofdimes.com or 352-642-8290.

So when Marcus Jr. came out — 10 weeks ahead of his due date — she was unprepared and entirely unmedicated for the 15-minute delivery.

Her adrenalin was so high, however, that she said she doesn't remember the pain — but she will never forget the contractions that initially landed her in the hospital, a sign of her son's premature birth.

That was on Feb. 10. She had woken up with a bad pain in her stomach that morning. At UF Health Shands Hospital, they discovered she was already 3 centimeters dilated and bleeding — something that also had occurred at the outset of an otherwise normal pregnancy.

She was going to be sent home Feb. 13, but she again had contractions. "They did an ultrasound, and I was fully dilated, and 15 minutes later, he was here," Madison said.

"I just kind of saw him from across the room" because he was immediately taken into the neonatal intensive care unit, she said. "He was crying really good" because of the steroids the hospital had given Madison earlier that week.

At 3 pounds 1 ounce, Marcus had to go on oxygen and was fed caffeine to keep his heart rate up. He also was kept inside an incubator to regulate his temperature.

But as he gradually grew stronger, he was moved to a regular crib inside the NICU, with a March of Dimes teddy bear waiting inside. Kenisha also was given a March of Dimes bag.

The March of Dimes is synonymous with NICUs across the country.

The nonprofit was started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to combat polio and later switched its mission to helping mothers have healthy pregnancies and preventing prematurity.

Saturday is the local March for Babies walk, an 8.5-mile course that begins at Gainesville's Westwood Middle School. March of Dimes National Ambassador Aidan Lamothe, of New Hampshire, and his parents will be at the walk as well.

Lamothe, now 6 years old, was born 12 weeks early at 3 pounds and is now doing well. He and his parents have been traveling around the country to encourage people to participate in the walks.

The North Central Florida region — which includes Lake City, Ocala, Palatka and Gainesville — has come in first in the nation for the amount of money raised per capita for the past 30 years, with the 13 local Publix grocery stores taking first place the past few years, followed by UF Health Shands Hospital.

During the month of March, the March of Dimes also provides dinners to families in the NICU, which are prepared by Publix.

"The March of Dimes has been a lifesaver," said Marcus Madison, Marcus Jr.'s father and Kenisha's husband.

He gets off work at 5:30 p.m. and comes directly to the hospital, where he can eat dinner and spend a couple of hours with his son, he said.

When he heard about the Publix dinners, at first he thought, "Who wants to eat Publix fried chicken for 21 days?"

But they've eaten a variety of meals: meatball subs, pasta and chili, chicken and rice.

"It's been nice to meet other families who are going through the same thing," Kenisha added.

What led to Marcus' early delivery, doctors discovered, was a tear on Kenisha's placenta that caused her bleeding. But she was able to go home the day after his delivery and has been fine ever since.

As for Marcus Jr., his weight is up to 4 pounds, 10 ounces, and he's doing well, his mother said.

"The last thing he has to do is feedings by mouth, and then we're on the fast track out of here," she said.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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