Abby Burle was put on bed rest for 11 days before she had her triplets at 24 weeks through an emergency cesarean section on May 15, 2017. Maggie came first at 1:28 p.m., then Max, then Miller.
Each baby was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Burle was only able to join her new babies 12 hours later after recovering from surgery.
“I think every girl, even before they're married, pictures themselves holding a warm baby, wrapped in a blanket after giving birth,” Burle said. “I think every girl would say at some point in their life, they picture that. And for a really long time, I felt robbed of that picture.”
Because of her family’s experience at the medical center, the Burles were named the 2019 Hall County Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes.
The annual March for Babies, an event held in counties across the country that raises money to support the March of Dimes’ efforts into premature infant care, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 27 near the Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville. Teams that have signed up for the 3-mile walk have been raising money over the last few months and Debbie Childress, development manager of the March of Dimes in Hall County, said she’s confident the event will hit its goal of $128,000.
“I believe we're going to meet our goal without any problem,” Childress said.
The event will feature face painting, treats for dogs, a bounce house and music as well as a sprint for kids and the 3-mile walk for everyone else.
Burle will be there with her family, trying to raise awareness for the March of Dimes, which through its research and mobile app helped her get through her time in the NICU with her triplets.
Burle didn’t have that picture-perfect experience she and her husband, Ryan, had always imagined.
Maggie was born at 1 pound, 6 ounces. Max and Miller were born at 1 pound, 9 ounces. Burle didn’t get to hold Max, who has cerebral palsy, for 28 days.
Since then, she said she’s learned her family’s journey “is just as beautiful because that is our story.”
The March of Dimes funded the research and development that led to the drug Surfactant, which helps develop a baby’s lungs at a faster pace. Burle received it through a shot in her back while on bed rest.
They also provided a grant that helped develop nitric oxide therapy, a last-ditch effort for babies who are having trouble breathing — a therapy that helped Max get through his time in the NICU.
“I can't say he would have passed away if he wouldn't have had the nitric oxide, but I mean,” Burle said, pausing a moment. “You know, when they sit you down and they tell you this is the last thing we can do.”
All in all, Maggie spent 142 days in the NICU, and Miller and Max stayed 158 days. During that time, the Burles read personal stories from other parents on the March of Dimes’ app, which helped them pass the time and feel a sense of support from people who knew what they were going through.
“It just provided a community for me not to feel alone,” Burle said. “Community support was a big thing even though I never met any of those people. We're in a niche that a lot of people aren't in, so the community support for me was huge.”
And that’s what the March for Babies provides, too. It’s a community event that raises funds for more research that could lead to different treatments to help mothers and premature babies.
“I think it's a very important event,” Childress said. “But I think it's even more important the work we're doing with our families in the NICU. It’s the research and the discoveries we've made.”
March for Babies
When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 27
Where: Longstreet Clinic, 725 Jesse Jewell Parkway, Gainesville
More info: marchforbabies.org/event/hall
That research and those discoveries helped the Burles, so they want to return the favor by letting people know about the March of Dimes which will hopefully raise more funds for the organization and show that no one is immune to having a child that has to spend time in the NICU.
“I think there's a preconceived notion that if you don't have a baby full term, you didn't have a healthy pregnancy or you didn't have prenatal care or you’re not educated,” Burle said. “I had the best prenatal care. I literally saw a specialist very week. I have a masters degree. I'm educated. And I took care of myself. And we're still in this position. So it can really affect anyone and it's kind of why we said yes to it.”
Even though the triplets left the NICU on Oct. 20, 2017 and are back home, Burle said the NICU life hasn’t stopped. After they left, they were going to multiple doctors appointments each week. Even now, the family goes through 10 hours of therapy each week.
But they’re all still here, and the March of Dimes helped them to do it. As this year’s Ambassador Family, they want to give back.
“My life is forever changed because of how prematurely our babies were born,” Burle said.
This story has been updated from its original version.