Joshua Hoffman of Weston, Fla., was born so early and with so many underdeveloped organs that doctors could not say whether he would survive — or if he would ever walk, talk, see or hear. Today, the 6-year-old is the March of Dimes 2010 National Ambassador.
Joshua’s mom, Melanie Hoffman, recalls, “My first minutes of motherhood and I was completely devastated. My husband, Lee, and I couldn’t be more terrified, and I was positive that after just 24 hours I had no more tears left.” Joshua was born more than 4 months too soon, weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces.
The Hoffman family credits the research and treatments funded by the March of Dimes with helping Joshua overcome his premature birth. He spent 3½ months in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Baptist Hospital in Miami, Fla., and had many surgeries and treatments, including heart surgery, laser eye surgery and blood transfusions.
As national ambassador, Joshua and his family are helping to raise awareness that premature birth is a common problem with serious health consequences. November is Prematurity Awareness Month®, and the family is urging everyone to visit marchofdimes.com/fightforpreemies to help raise awareness and support research into the causes of premature birth.
“Premature birth can happen to anyone, and when it does happen, it exacts a huge toll emotionally, physically and financially on families,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “We are grateful to the Hoffman family for sharing their amazing story.”
Today, Joshua has a visual impairment with blindness in his right eye and a low field of vision. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves most - reading, building things, swimming, and giving speeches at March of Dimes events. His father, Lee, says, “Our hearts still skip a beat every time we see Joshua smile, hear him talk and laugh and feel his strong hugs and soft kisses.”
Premature birth has increased more than 36 percent in the last 25 years in the United States, and now affects 540,000 babies annually. It is the leading cause of newborn death and costs the nation more than $26 billion annually in health care costs, according to the Institute of Medicine.
As 2010 National Ambassador, Joshua and his family will travel the country throughout the year to share his inspiring story and encourage families and companies to join them in making sure all babies get a healthy start in life by participating in March for Babies® and other special events.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more information, visit marchofdimes.com or its Spanish language Web site at nacersano.org.
To follow Joshua as he travels the country, visit Joshua’s blog at marchofdimes.com/JoshFightsforPreemies.
Continental Airlines will continue to serve as the official airline sponsor of the March of Dimes National Ambassador Program for the 5th consecutive year. Continental President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Smisek, who will become Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in January 2010, said, “Serving the March of Dimes and our community in this capacity is an honor. We are proud to have the National Ambassador fly with us, and we look forward to taking Joshua and his family to new destinations throughout 2010. We remain committed to the March of Dimes and its goal to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality and look forward to another successful campaign.”