Lyla Billman of Merrifield is a bright-eyed, cheerful baby girl who shows no signs of the struggle for life she experienced before and after her birth nine months ago.
"She's a miracle baby," Laura Billman said of her daughter. "If there is such a thing, this is it."
Before Lyla was born, Laura had always wanted to be a mother. She loved children and has worked in child care for 18 years. She lost a baby in 1984, which was a devastating experience, and had problems conceiving another child.
She and her husband, Rusty, talked about adopting a child, but then they were pleasantly surprised when Laura became pregnant last year at age 40.
Laura worried that something would happen to this baby growing inside of her, but was relieved when all prenatal tests turned out well.
"We were looking forward to a happy, healthy baby," she said.
But everything wasn't OK. Unknown to the Billmans and the doctors, the placenta that was providing nourishment to Lyla stopped functioning about a month before she was born.
The baby was starving to death.
Lyla Mae Billman was born June 19, five days late by emergency C-section. It wasn't until shortly before her birth that doctors knew something was wrong and the infant was in distress. Doctors have since told Laura that if her daughter had been delivered even another hour later, they wouldn't have been able to save her.
Lyla was 19 inches long and weighed only 4 pounds, 12 ounces, at birth. Her tiny chest appeared caved in because of the lack of nutrition. She was very sick and airlifted from St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis soon after birth. The baby suffered a seizure in the helicopter. Laura was taken by ambulance to nearby Abbott Northwestern Hospital to recover from her C-section so she could be near her baby.
Six days after Lyla's birth, Laura and Rusty were able to hold their baby for the first time. Lyla was released from the hospital four days later.
Lyla is now a healthy little girl, whom her doctors have said shouldn't experience any health or developmental problems in life because of her traumatic birth.
The Billmans have been selected as the March of Dimes Ambassador Family for the 2002 Brainerd WalkAmerica, an event slated April 27 at Central Lakes College. Money raised during the benefit walk will go toward the March of Dimes and its work to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.
"It's an honor," Laura said of their selection as the walk's ambassador family.
Learn and Play Daycare in Pequot Lakes, where Laura works, has organized a team to walk in the event for Lyla.
Registration for the Brainerd WalkAmerica will begin at 9 a.m. while the walk will start at 10 a.m. April 27 at Central Lakes College.
Participation forms are available at stores throughout the Brainerd lakes area. Businesses interested in sponsoring the event can call the March of Dimes at (320) 252-1156.
Last year, the Brainerd WalkAmerica raised $44,642, according to the March of Dimes organizers. The goal this year is to raise $45,000.
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