LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - This Saturday, hundreds of people in Little Rock will take steps in the March of Dimes' March for Babies. Money raised helps moms have full-term pregnancies, funds research, and supports programs for babies born too soon or unhealthy.
Klay and Heather Killian of Mountain Home are benefiting from one of those programs. They're the proud new parents of baby girl Isla, a small bundle of joy that delivered a big scare.
"I was terrified," Heather said. "I had not expected her to come early, I expected her to go to term. My pregnancy had been very, very simple, very easy."
But Heather developed HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening condition that causes blood and liver problems. Isla debuted six-and-half weeks early; she's been in the NICU at UAMS ever since.
"Her neurological system hadn't fully developed," her dad explained. "So she wouldn't be able to fully eat and swallow and breathe at the same time."
At first, the Killians were not sure how close they could get to their new daughter until they learned about a March of Dimes program.
"It's called 'Kangaroo Care' because of the skin-to-skin holding just like the Kangaroo, the mommy Kangaroo carries the Joey around. The baby is put on the mother's chest with as little clothing as possible," said Kristin Powell, a March of Dimes NICU family support specialist.
"It helps regulate their body temperature, it helps regulate their heart rate," she explained. "It also helps the babies gain weight."
Heather is already noticing how it's helping her little one.
"The first couple times we did that she, her heart rate slowed down, her respiration slowed down and evened out, her oxygen level went up, I mean it was amazing," said Heather.
"She hears your heartbeat and she just lays there and she just breaths and she's calm and it does the same thing for you" Klay said.
While Kangaroo Care is helping Klay and Heather gain confidence and encouragement, Isla is gaining weight and doing better and better each day.
"It's just an experience that you have to experience," said simply by Isla's dad.
Since Isla and her parents began participating in Kangaroo Care, Isla became healthy enough to go home. Because of the great care they received, the family hopes to one day take part in the March for Babies.
This year's Little Rock March for Babies is Saturday, April 27 at the Clinton Library. Registration is at 8 a.m. and it starts at 9 a.m.
THV is a proud sponsor and THV 11's Liz Massey is emceeing the event. For more information click here.
International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day is May 15th. The Powells will host a Kangaroo-a-thon in the NICU at UAMS to encourage parents in need to try this unique treatment.