Presley, who turned 8 on Friday, came into this world on April 19, 2005. She was two months early, weighed only 2 pounds, 7 ounces, and doctors prepared her parents for the worst. Today, the second-grader is small for her age, around 43 pounds, but otherwise she’s a typical, active little girl making straight A’s.
Because of Presley’s premature birth, mom Lea Ann Rasar became involved with the March of Dimes, the leading non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health through its work to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. In February, the Appalachia Division of the March of Dimes named Lea Ann its 2012 Tennessee State Volunteer of the Year.
Lea Ann’s journey with the organization began in the spring of 2005. During a routine ultrasound on April 15, doctors became concerned about Presley’s size for her gestational age. And Lea Ann’s blood pressure had skyrocketed, so she was admitted to the hospital.
"They did a series of three injections to help develop Presley’s lungs in the event they had to take her," Lea Ann said.
By April 19, Presley was barely moving, and she wasn’t getting appropriate oxygen and blood levels. Doctors decided on an emergency Caesarean section to try to save her.
While in the neonatal intensive care unit, doctors told Lea Ann and husband Johnny that Presley might have a learning disability, might be late to speak, might be at high risk for allergies.
After exactly a month in the hospital, Presley went home, weighing 3 pounds, 12 ounces.
"She was doing everything on her own, so there was no reason to keep her in the NICU," Lea Ann said. Presley needed no equipment at home other than a device to detect her movement and breathing.
Issues with acid reflux caused her to have trouble gaining weight, and Presley registers low on growth charts, but she’s consistently growing.
"She is a very active, a princess and a diva, but she wants to climb and jump," Lea Ann said. "We need a fast pass to the emergency room. She’s flipping, climbing."
At age 4, Presley started riding horses. She also swims and takes gymnastics.
During Lea Ann’s online research about issues related to premature birth, she was consistently referred to the March of Dimes.
"I started on my own to get more involved. I have always had a weakness for babies and animals," she said.
In the spring of 2006, Lea Ann joined the March of Dimes campaign that year as a family team. She raised money as a family team in 2006 and 2007 and, in 2008, she and her family served as the Ambassador Family for the Appalachia Division.
In 2008, served as the Fund the Mission chairman for that year’s Signature Chefs event, and she presented the Fund the Mission speech during the event. In 2009, she joined the Appalachia Division board of directors and took on the role of chair of the 2009 wine tasting event.
In 2010, Lea Ann accepted the position of vice chair of the Appalachia Division board of directors. While serving on the board, she again chaired the wine tasting event. Also in 2010, she accepted the position of director of Move to Kingsport, a program of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.
Lea Ann is the 2012-2013 Appalachia Division Board chair.
The March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies will be held at 1:05 p.m., April 28, on the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center campus in Johnson City. Registration begins at 1 p.m. Money raised will support local programs that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies as well as fund research.
For information about the March of Dimes, visit www.marchofdimes.com.