Last year, one in ten babies born in Kern County was born too early. That's the highest rate in California.
This week, the March of Dimes is continuing its mission to give all babies a healthy start in life through its annual fundraiser.
James Ireson weighed just 2 pounds, 6 ounces in his first week of life. As he lay in San Joaquin Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, Will and Rachel Ireson had to face the fact that they may never get to take him home.
Earlier, the Iresons thought Rachel's first pregnancy was going great. But, suddenly everything changed when Rachel got preeclampsia.
"During severe preeclampsia there is vasoconstriction. Blood vessels constrict, and the normal response of the body is to divert blood flow to vital organs. The uterus is not a vital organ," said Grace Kwasman, R.N.
Rachel was only 28 weeks along when her doctor ordered her to have an emergency c-section. "Thankfully, the NICU nurses had talked to me about how a 28 weeker could live. The chances were 15%. That's when my positive outlook washed away, and I thought 'this isn't going to happen'," she recalled.
When baby James was born, nurses whisked him away before Rachel could see him.
"I got to see him shortly after he was born in the NICU. There wasn't much to see. It was two pounds and a bunch of cords," said Will Ireson.
But, James was lucky. After 77 days, he got to go home.
Flash forward to today and James is a rambunctious 3-year-old.
He will deal with respiratory issues for the rest of his life and will likely have asthma. That's why the Iresons are lending their voices to the March of Dimes, in hopes of finding a cure for preeclampsia.
"Being a mom you do everything you can for your kids. But, when you have preeclampsia, you can't prevent it," said Rachel.
"They're doing a lot of studies about it already. There are some women that have a certain gene that makes them pre-disposed to preeclampsia, and hopefully one day we'll find a cure," said Kwasman.
The March of Dimes has researchers searching for that cure right now.
Through that study and others like it, the hope is that one day all babies will have the chance to grow into rambunctious three-year-olds, and like James, get a running start at life.
The Signature Chefs fundraiser auction takes place Thursday, October 4th at 6 pm at the Marriott in downtown Bakersfield. Tickets are $100. Call 369-1181.