Bethany and David Byrne of Lady's Island have three very good reasons for walking in Saturday's March for Babies to support the March of Dimes.
Thanks to the research and medical technologies supported by the nonprofit foundation, their triplets survived premature birth.
The Byrnes -- mom, Bethany, dad David and 2-year-olds Olivia Ann, George Alfred Louis and Samuel Wright -- are the 2011 Ambassador Family at this year's walk.
"It (the March of Dimes research) has affected every baby since being in (the neonatal intensive care unit) that long," Bethany Byrne said. "We have met so many families whose children wouldn't be alive without that research. I don't know if we would have three babies, two babies or even one baby without it. I hope by continuing to raise money, we will continue to have families be able to bring their babies home."
Eleven weeks before the triplets were due, the Byrnes were told one of the boys was losing nutrition and had fallen to below the third percentile in growth from intrauterine growth restriction.
The couple decided to deliver the babies the next day, on Jan. 28, 2009. They were born: Oliva Ann, 2 pounds, 12 ounces; George Alfred Louis, 2 pounds, 10 ounces; and Samuel Wright, 1 pound, 9 ounces.
"At birth the babies were given surfactant, a life-saving drug developed by the March of Dimes to help respiratory function," Bethany said. "Because of the research, the number of babies who died from Respiratory Distress Syndrome has gone from 10,000 per year to fewer than 1,000."
Olivia and George spent nine weeks in the Medical University of South Carolina's NICU, which receives assistance for its equipment from the March of Dimes research. Olivia battled feeding intolerance and infection. George had holes in his heart, which were repaired.
All of the babies "braved multiple blood transfusions, jaundice, apnea, bradycardia and oxygen desaturation, brain bleeds, infections, holes in their hearts, surgeries all before they reached 3 pounds," Bethany said.
On April 3, 2009, Olivia and George came home.
Samuel's problems were more extensive and he has spent more than half his life (14 months) at MUSC. After his lungs failed, Samuel was medically paralyzed and sedated for two weeks to allow healing. After 329 days in the NICU, Samuel came home for five days, then was airlifted back to Charleston.
After 14 months at MUSC, Samuel came home March 29, 2010. Just two weeks ago, his tracheotomy tube was removed.
The Byrnes are happy to have all three of their children at home with them at last. Combined, they see a total of seven specialists to help with a variety of continued complications, such as chronic lung disease and developmental delays, but the successes are many. They all weigh 25 to 28 pounds each and Olivia and George have graduated from speech and occupational therapies.
"We've been told, 'Your children probably won't live.' We've seen successes and seen people lose their children five feet from you," Bethany said of their more than year long stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. "It creates this whole sense of who the lucky ones are. I don't think people looked at us for a long time and thought we were the lucky ones.
"We have extra big smiles these days."