Zane Kirkendall was born three months premature, and at 13 inches long, weighed just one pound, six ounces. Described by doctors as a fighter, the infant survived for 13 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before his underdeveloped lungs gave in.
Prior to delivering prematurely, Mandy, Zane’s mother, began experiencing pain, the result of which led her to the hospital where she stayed overnight.
“It ended up that I had HELLP Syndrome, which means my liver was shutting down, and I also had preeclampsia,” said Mandy. “The only cure was to deliver the baby. Being 26 weeks pregnant, that was not the ideal situation.”
Unfortunately, the medication given to Mandy only slowed the process for a day before doctors knew she had no other choice but to deliver.
So, that’s what she did.
And though the end result is a tough story to tell for Mandy and husband David, it’s one they tell often as the Tucson Ambassador Family for March For Babies.
March For Babies is an annual walk that occurs in over 900 communities to raise money for the March of Dimes, an organization that supports healthy pregnancies and full-term births.
It is estimated by the Center for Disease Control that preterm birth (younger than 37 weeks) affects nearly 500,000 babies.
That’s one out of every nine babies born in the United States each year.
Like many of those families, the Kirkendalls are finding comfort surrounding themselves with people who have experienced similar circumstances.
The Kirkendalls’ journey toward joining the fight began with a March of Dimes race, where they found the support they needed.
“Before that, we had never heard of March of Dimes,” said Mandy. “That was when we decided we wanted to become involved and help other families.”
Soon after, the couple, whose bond has grown stronger than ever, initiated March For Zane, which is now in its fifth year of operation. The program offers support for families who have similar experiences to their own, while raising money for the March of Dimes.
While it’s a tough task to manage, the two are not alone in organizing the event.
Kaleb, their four-year-old son who was born after Zane’s death, is taking on some of the responsibility as well.
“He’s helping us with all the fundraisers and spreading the word about March of Dimes and what they do about infant mortality,” said Mandy.
Needless to say, trying for another baby after Zane’s passing was a tough task to handle.
“It was terrifying,” said Mandy. “Every single day was very scary, and we were going to a high-risk doctor. Once we got past 26 weeks it wasn’t as scary, and Kaleb was born at 36 weeks.”
Now the trio is finding more and more success each year when they host a walk, run, and breakfast fundraiser at Apple Annie’s Orchard, which they own.
One hundred percent of the money raised at March For Zane goes toward the March of Dimes. Since its initiation, March for Zane has raised $60,000.
The next March For Zane takes place at Apple Annie’s Orchard on Aug 24.
For more information, visit www.appleannies.com or the March For Zane Facebook page.