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Micro-Preemie Survives to Become March of Dimes 2009 National Ambassador

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Jan. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Born no larger than a ballpoint pen at birth, a premature baby girl who survived overwhelming odds has been named the 2009 National Ambassador for the March of Dimes, it was announced today.

Katelyn Marie Hall, age 5, from Leesburg, Virginia, was born very early at 25 weeks, weighing less than one pound. The family says Katelyn was given only a 5 percent chance of survival. During her five-month stay in the NICU, she endured many of the obstacles that are common to babies born prematurely. She was treated for chronic lung disease, battled many infections, underwent heart surgery, and suffered from bleeding in the brain.

When Katelyn's parents, Ashley and Michael Hall, finally got to take their little daughter home, Katelyn's calendar quickly filled up with numerous visits every week to doctors, including a neonatologist, pediatric cardiologist, gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist, and more. Katelyn was also on supplementary oxygen and took ten medications every day.

Katelyn is one of the more than 540,000 babies born too soon every year in the United States. "Premature birth is the most common, serious and costly infant health problem facing our nation, and it has reached a crisis," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "We are determined to find and implement solutions to prevent preterm birth, based on research, best clinical practices and improved education for moms."

Today, Katelyn is the joy of her parents lives. In many ways, she acts like a typical five-year-old -- she loves to run, jump and play outside with her dog, Sequoia. But because of her premature birth, Katelyn has developmental delays and slight cerebral palsy that affects the left side of her body. She began walking and talking late for her age, and continues to work with speech, occupational and physical therapists. The March of Dimes says she was chosen as 2009 National Ambassador because she exemplifies the long-term problems faced by many children who survive an extremely early birth.

The Halls say Katelyn would not be alive today if it wasn't for March of Dimes-funded research that helped save and improve her life. Ashley and Michael are determined to raise a million dollars, the cost of Katelyn's medical care, for the March of Dimes so the organization can help more babies and families. They are well on their way with over $140,000 raised since 2004 when they first began what they call their "lifelong partnership with the March of Dimes" to raise awareness of the organization's achievements and its efforts to give every baby a healthy start in life.

The March of Dimes National Ambassador Program is an annual campaign, started in 1946, that puts a face on the March of Dimes mission. Throughout the year, the National Ambassador attends events and conferences, speaks with volunteers, does media interviews and appears with corporate leaders, celebrities and the president of the United States to raise awareness of the March of Dimes.

Continental Airlines will continue to serve as the official airline sponsor of the March of Dimes 2009 National Ambassador Program. Larry Kellner, Chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, said, "It has been an honor for us to have served as the official airline sponsor of the National Ambassador Program for the past three years, and we look forward to continuing our partnership in 2009."

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies(R), the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For more information about the March of Dimes or March for Babies, visit or its Spanish language Web site at

To follow Katelyn on her journey across the country and to find out how to get involved, visit

SOURCE March of Dimes
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