Thousands will 'March For Babies' this weekend

Events help fund research to reduce premature births

DETROIT – Zoe Michelle Roll was born on Feb. 11, a staggering 15 weeks before her due date. 

She weighed just one pound, nine ounces and was 13 inches long. 

Zoe was so tiny, her dad's wedding ring could slide all the way up her arm to her shoulder.

"They called her 'the feisty one' from the beginning," said Zoe's mom Christina Roll.  "She would be sitting there on a ventilator on her tummy, and she'd be trying to do pushups."

Zoe needed several blood transfusions and spent seven weeks on a ventilator, but is now breathing on her own.

"She's a fighter," said Roll.  "She fought pneumonia, sepsis, multiple infections."

Zoe spent nine weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit.  She has since improved enough to move to the special care nursery.   She sleeps under a pink blanket embroidered with the saying "Sleep Sound, Grow Healthy."

"She's doing amazing.  She's up to 3 pounds, 7 ounces.  She has grown about an inch," said Roll.

This weekend, families will gather at walks across Michigan to raise money to support babies like Zoe at the March of Dimes "March For Babies."

Kara Hamilton-McGraw is the state director of program services and government affairs for the Michigan chapter of the March of Dimes.

She said advances are being made, but one in nine babies is still born prematurely.

"Knowing why a woman goes into preterm labor, we're getting closer and closer every day to finding some of those puzzle pieces.  We're getting better at making sure these babies survive and thrive.  We're getting better at developmental care once these babies are out of the NICU and making sure they survive and thrive in school," said Hamilton-McGraw.

The Roll family moved to Macomb from Virginia last year. 

Last weekend, a team called "Friends of Zoe" walked in the Virginia March For Babies and raised over $1,300 in Zoe's honor.  Christina Roll and Zoe's older sister Zenedra traveled to Virginia to take part in the event. 

Zenedra was born six weeks early.  She's now a healthy 5-year-old.

The Rolls say they're grateful for the research that's given their girls a fighting chance.

"They know what medications can help, they know that if it's looking to be a premature birth, they can do preventative things while they're still in utero like they did with me.  They can help get those lifesaving drugs into their systems before they're born," said Christina Roll.  "I have two daughters that are the biggest blessings in the world, and they're both here, especially Zoe, because of the efforts the March of Dimes has done." 

To find out more information about Michigan's "March For Babies" walks, click here.

To visit the Michigan March of Dimes website, click here.

"March For Babies" walkers can also bring new baby items to donate to families in need, including diapers, clothes, blankets, infant car seats and bottles.  No stuffed animals or bedding, please.