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Many Prematurity Outcomes are Mild

By Helen Harrison

Although studies indicate that the majority of preemies have ongoing problems, it is important to remember that often these problems are considered to be "mild" -- learning or behavior problems, for example, or vision problems correctable with glasses, and/or motor problems that may make them less than perfect athletes. These problems may not always seem mild to a parent or child struggling with them, but they do not necessarily rule out a successful, happy and independent life.

There are also children who emerge from this experience (even with some pretty bad risk factors) to be completely normal, and not only normal, but superkids, by anyone's definition. In The Premature Baby Book, there is a story of Steven and Timothy Laurie, identical male twins, about 1000 grams each and 26 or 27 weeks gestation (all big risk factors). These boys had very rocky neonatal courses. One of them had a near-miss SIDS after coming home. Yet today both boys are excellent students and getting ready to go off to good colleges. They are handsome, athletic, musically talented, Eagle Scouts, etc.

Their NICU pictures were so gruesome that the editor at St. Martin's Press didn't want me to use them, but you should see those guys now and I have this year's Christmas card to prove it!

Also in the book is the story of Rosie, who, when we went to press back in 1983, was not doing so well. She had mild CP, vision problems, and was in numerous therapies. Her mother was feeling pretty discouraged. Today Rosie is in college and studying to be a special ed teacher. She is six feet tall and an excellent basketball player. She was making straight A's, last I heard.

There are many examples of teen or adult preemies who have escaped problems or done well in spite of problems who are right here on this list, on the preemie-child list and on the retinopathy list. Some of the preemie-l parents were preemies themselves.

Helen Harrison is the well known author of The Premature Baby Book, often referred to as the "Bible of Prematurity" by older preemie parents. These observations are excerted with permission from posts to the prematurity parents support internet mailing lists on prematurity: Preemie-child and Preemie-L.

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