One in eight babies is born preterm in the US. That's a 14 percent increase over the past ten years. The March of Dimes is working to improves those numbers.
One of their local advocates is only six-years-old. Brooke Appel has been calling her daughter the "Amazing Avery Grace" since birth and for good reason.
She was born 16 weeks prematurely which made her a micro-preemie, with about a 50 percent chance of surviving.
To see her now, you'd probably never guess. She may be small, but definitely not fragile anymore. She does regular things like mess up her room and run around the house, but Avery Appel has also achieved something extraordinary. As of April 1st, she no longer takes any medication. Brooke says, "That was a really big day after six years of waiting."
Six long years, that started with a four month vigil at her bedside in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Weighing in at just over a pound, dad could put his wedding band around her arm. But by her first birthday, therapists were helping her reach developmental milestones.
Brooke says all that work paid off throughout the years, "So many preemies have development delays and need special help and they have learning disabilities as they get older and she's sharp as a tack."
Avery will probably always be at risk for things like asthma because of her underdeveloped lung and the scar tissue from a ventilator, but Brooke says that is small stuff, "They're a lot more minor things than we were looking at six years ago. We're not looking at life and death anymore. We're looking at manageable conditions."
Avery is a walking advocate for the March of Dimes and its mission to prevent premature births. Avery Appel says, "If they helped me then I could help them." Brooke says she hopes the mere sight of Avery will inspire other parents of preemies, "I would like to think that they can see Avery and know that there is hope."
Join the Amazing Avery Grace and her team at the March of Dimes Walk America Saturday morning at Sunrise Park. That's on the Evansville riverfront.