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A second chance at life

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Ambassador family proves importance of March of Dimes

By TRISTA LUTGRING, Feature Writer

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TELL CITY – Brennan Fenwick is a normal, healthy 10-month-old baby. He laughs loudly to the amusement of family members as he is lifted in the air by his father. He is easily distracted by shiny objects dangled by his grandmother, grins at his grandfather’s goofy faces and clings to his mother when tired. Brennan rolls on the floor with his toys and tends to pull his socks off when they apparently bother him.

Upon first glance, most people wouldn’t guess this bubbly 10-month-old was born five weeks premature when his mother was only 35 weeks pregnant. “He was in the (neonatal intensive care unit) for only six days,” his mother, Amy, said. “We were very lucky with him.”

Amy and Jason Fenwick’s story, which will be shared Sunday during the Perry-Spencer March for Babies at Old National Bank’s Main Street location in Tell City, doesn’t begin with Brennan, however. It actually started two years ago Sunday, with the couple’s first child, Bryce Thomas.

Amy was only 21 weeks pregnant when her water broke unexpectedly.

After being placed on bed rest for three weeks, she woke up in labor and gave birth to Bryce, who was 16 weeks early and weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces and was 11 3/4 inches long. Bryce spent 26 days in NICU as doctors worked to help him gain weight. But his underdevelopment worked against him, and he passed away Nov. 19, 2008.

With Brennan, Amy said things were different. Concerned for their second child, Amy and Jason consulted their doctor. After being pregnant for 18 weeks, Amy started on P17 steroid shots, a drug therapy that had been researched and funded by the March of Dimes. P17 shots are given to high-risk mothers to prolong their pregnancies and prevent pre-term labor.

“The doctors were sure that really helped because Brennan came out breathing on his own,” Amy explained. “And I honestly believe (the shots) were a huge help.”

This time when Amy went into labor she was 35 weeks pregnant, and while little Brennan was just that, weighing in at 4 pounds and 15 ounces, he was healthier and more developed than his brother Bryce had been. Already breathing on his own and eating right away, Brennan was able to come home with his family after only six days.

“And the only reason he was in the NICU was for eating.  Since he was under 36 weeks, he was required to go to make sure he was eating,” Amy said.

“They were a great bunch of people there,” Jason added. “The (staff) we had the first time, we had the second time too so they all knew the history on us. That’s why they took him in for observation.”

Since then, the problems have been few with little Brennan. The only real scare came when he was just a month old, he stopped eating and his temperature dropped. Upon arrival at the hospital, he stopped breathing and had to be placed on a ventilator before being flown to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky. The family spent a total of 8 days there, five of which Brennan had spent on a ventilator as doctors worked to find what was wrong with him.

“We were at Kosair’s longer than we were at the NICU,” Amy pointed out, adding that the doctors still didn’t know what was wrong with her son when he was allowed to come home.

Finally, one of the doctors had called the day after the Fenwicks had left to report Brennan had contracted respiratory syncytial virus, a common virus that leads to mild, cold-like symptoms and can be very dangerous for young babies. The first RSV test had come back negative, but a second finally showed had been Brennan afflicted by the virus.

“The doctor told us, there’s not very many, but every now and then they get a mystery child and that’s what he was,” Amy said.

Both Amy and Jason feel the funding and help from the March of Dimes are partly responsible for Brennan’s success. And the couple are quick to point out that the caring of March of Dimes goes beyond funding and research. Donations from the organization have also went to placing web cameras in the NICU at the Women’s Hospital in Newburgh. The cameras allow parents and relatives to view the babies at anytime and are a huge comfort to family members that cannot be at the hospital or not allowed in the unit.

“(The web cameras) were great,” said Brennan’s grandfather, Wayne Sprinkle. “I had a girl at work that logged in and we watched the camera all the time.”

His wife, Tammy, added that it was helpful for everyone. “We all could just keep an eye on him,” she said.

As the ambassador family for the March of Dimes this year, Amy, Jason and Brennan hope to spread the word about the organization and let people know that premature births are just one of the many focuses of the group.

“They help fund research for pediatric cancer, heart disease, tumors, hemorrhages, birth defects…I think March of Dimes would benefit a lot more if people realized that; that a lot more people are affected and helped by March of Dimes than (the public) realize,” Amy said.

The Fenwicks are spreading the word by continuing to raise funds with a team in Bryce and Brennan’s name. They also spoke to St. Paul Catholic Church’s confirmation class Sept. 26 about the importance of the organization and will address the crowd at the March of Dimes Walk Sunday. Amy, Jason and their family hope more people will recognize the organization and donate to the cause.

“That’s what the March of Dimes needs is support,” Amy said.

Despite his early start, Brennan is a healthy and active baby willing to prove it to anyone willing to play with him as he crawls across the floor, surrounded by his many toys. No special precautions are needed with Brennan either as he continues to grow.

“He’s one of the lucky ones, he really is,” Amy said with a smile to her son.

Brennan’s doctor told the couple at their last exam that the 10-month-old is on time and ahead developmentally, which is great news for his parents.

“You wouldn’t know that he was a premie now,” Amy said.

March for Babies Sunday

Sunday’s Perry-Spencer March for Babies will start outside Old National Bank’s Main Street location in Tell City. Registration starts at 2 p.m. and the walk gets under way at 3. For more information, call Betty Cash at 547-3427.