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Josh’s Story

Joshua Hoffman of Weston, Fla., was born so early and with so many underdeveloped organs that doctors could not say whether he would survive — or if he would ever walk, talk, see or hear. Today, the 6-year-old was named March of Dimes 2010 National Ambassador.

Joshua’s mom, Melanie Hoffman, recalls, “My first minutes of motherhood and I was completely devastated. My husband, Lee, and I couldn’t be more terrified, and I was positive that after just 24 hours I had no more tears left.” Joshua was born more than 4 months too soon, weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces.

The Hoffman family credits the research and treatments funded by the March of Dimes with helping Joshua overcome his premature birth.  He spent 3½ months in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Baptist Hospital in Miami, Fla., and had many surgeries and treatments, including heart surgery, laser eye surgery and blood transfusions.

As national ambassador, Joshua and his family are helping to raise awareness that premature birth is a common problem with serious health consequences.  November is Prematurity Awareness Month®, and the family is urging everyone to visit marchofdimes.com/fightforpreemies to help raise awareness and support research into the causes of premature birth.

 “Premature birth can happen to anyone, and when it does happen, it exacts a huge toll emotionally, physically and financially on families,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “We are grateful to the Hoffman family for sharing their amazing story.”

Today, Joshua has a visual impairment with blindness in his right eye and a low field of vision.  But that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves most – reading, building things, swimming, and giving speeches at March of Dimes events.  His father, Lee, says, “Our hearts still skip a beat every time we see Joshua smile, hear him talk and laugh and feel his strong hugs and soft kisses.”

Premature birth has increased more than 36 percent in the last 25 years in the United States, and now affects 540,000 babies annually.  It is the leading cause of newborn death and costs the nation more than $26 billion annually in health care costs, according to the Institute of Medicine.

As 2010 National Ambassador, Joshua and his family will travel the country throughout the year to share his inspiring story and encourage families and companies to join them in making sure all babies get a healthy start in life by participating in March for Babies® and other special events.

Continental Airlines will continue to serve as the official airline sponsor of the March of Dimes National Ambassador Program for the 5th consecutive year. Continental President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Smisek, who will become Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in January 2010, said, “Serving the March of Dimes and our community in this capacity is an honor.  We are proud to have the National Ambassador fly with us, and we look forward to taking Joshua and his family to new destinations throughout 2010.  We remain committed to the March of Dimes and its goal to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality and look forward to another successful campaign.”

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more information, visit marchofdimes.com or its Spanish language Web site at nacersano.org.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. November 18, 2009 11:02 pm

    I am so touched by Josh’s story. My son (who is 4 now) has a similar one…spending 3 1/3 months in 3 different NICU’s, with his first surgery being at 6 weeks old. It brings tears to my eye’s knowing Josh is doing so well and that he is doing all he can to bring awareness to the nation regarding Premature birth.

    Josh, I know your parents are so proud of you. I don’t even know you and I can honestly say, I am so proud of you. Keep up the good work buddy and if you are ever in the Northern Virginia area, I would love to come hear you speak.

    God Bless!!!

    • Claudia permalink
      March 4, 2010 9:02 am

      I live in Uruguay. I speak spanish, but I will try to express myself. Reading your story I couldnt avoid tears in my eyes. I have a daughter that is 1 year old now. She was born with 29 weeks with 1.500 kg (3.5 pounds).
      All those childs are my hero. They deserve the best things, because they are fighters from the beginning of their lives. I love them. A big hug from Montevideo, Uruguay to all those families! Claudia

  2. Rhonda Akins permalink
    December 17, 2009 10:49 pm

    you are the lucky ones with the happy ending, ours isn’t so happy, my grand baby was born 9 weeks early weighing 2 lbs. 3 1/4 oz. & seemed to be healthy until she developed NEC (intestinal infection), she lived 22 days. Our family participates in the March of Dimes Walkathon because our goal is that no parent, grand parent or sibling has to ever endure the pain that our family has. Continue with all your efforts, we have to beat the odds & stop premature births.

  3. wendy colich permalink
    January 8, 2010 3:32 am

    I loved reading your story and saw many similarities to my granddaughter. She was also born 4 months early, had several surgeries and spent 7 months in the NICU before she went home. My granddaughter just turned one year old in August and reading your story has given me hope for her future. I can tell reading about Josh that he is going to touch a lot of lives and grow into a very special (and bright) young man. Blessings to you and your family.

  4. January 21, 2010 9:29 pm

    I walk every year for my son. He was born 18 weeks too soon, and he would be turning 6 in June. I am happy that Joshua’s family had such a good outcome and are using their experience to help others. I did not have a good outcome, since Tyeler passed away just as soon as he was born; however I wear the white ribbon and walk every year in his memory. My daughter was born 5 weeks too soon and survived! Thankfully! You may see us out there. We will be walking in Modesto, CA this year! Best of luck with your future Joshua!!! 🙂

  5. Colleen permalink
    January 22, 2010 1:59 am

    I love reading those story and now I tell mine my daughter was 2 months early and weight was about 4lbs she had to go to pittsburg NICU. I am glad that she had never had any surgeries but they told be that she wold never talk walk and be like any other child her age and now she is 2 and is is walking and talking. I have been wanting to walk with the march of dime and i will do it this year for my baby and all the others bless you all and good luck!!

  6. Nikki Donald permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:39 am

    What a hopeful story. My daughter was born 17 wks early also, only weighing 1 lb 6 oz. When she was 5 days old, she developed stage 4 bleeding to her brain and also had heart surgery that day. She ended up having 2 intestinal surgeries and laser eye surgery during her 5 month NICU stay. She will be 1 yr old in March and is rolling over, weighs 11 1/2 lbs and is smiling like crazy. We thank God everyday for choosing our family to bless with such a miracle. Your story gives us such hope that our daughter will be alright. She has already overcome so much that we can only continue our faith in her. In appreciation for her, we have started a family team for the March for babies this year and can’t wait to walk for her and all other babies that have lived and those that have gone to their home in heaven.

  7. Chris permalink
    February 15, 2010 3:36 pm

    Joshua and Family,

    What a fantastic story that definitely helps shine a bright light on the darker side of birth. My son(Joey) was born 16 weeks early weighing in at 560 grams (which was about 1lb). The rollercoaster ride my wife and and our family has been on is unexplainable. We have spent 3 months in the NICU and on Valentine’s Day we were given the best gift that Joey was moved to the Special Care Nursery. In beginning there was plenty of days of when you didnt know what the outcome was…is he eatting? Will he ever get off this vent? So many issues and concerns…you don’t know where to turn to. Joey has been extremely lucky and has made amazing progress…to the shock of all his doctors and nurses..he is off all oxygen…enjoying his bottles and gaining weight like a “mad man” (he is up to 5lbs 3oz)

    As our stay at the NICU winds down and we prepare to bring him home…I don’t know what to do. Not as for care…but how can I repay the staff??? I feel that by our family supporting the March of Dimes and participating in a local walk will help. We will definitely attempt to make all the walks we can!!!

    Thank you March of Dimes….before all of this I had no idea who you were!!! Thank you Joshua and Family for being so brave!!! Josh…enjoy the trips!!! Like I said from our first day at the NICU…All the cool kids visit the NICU!!! Keep fighting!!! Always keep HOPE!!!

    Thank You

    • February 15, 2010 10:05 pm

      Dear Chris,
      Congratulations on your Joey. Sounds like he’s a true fighter. And it seems like he is blessed with wonderful parents. Stay strong and YES, please get involved with the March of Dimes. The walks are so amazing and such a great way to give thanks to the March of Dimes in a big way. Best to your family always.
      Love,
      Joshua and my Family

  8. Crystal permalink
    February 17, 2010 11:17 pm

    Joshua, I just want to say that you are a brave, intellegent young man. You are such an inspiration to many and give others hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    My son was born 14 weeks early. I had few problems but none I thought was significant enough to deliver me this early. Later, I realized that if the doctor didn’t take my son, he nor I would have survived. I had an infection called Chorioamnionitis that attacked my baby and caused me to go into preterm labor thus being delivered by an emergency c-section.
    I was then put under for a second surgery because the infection had spread to my incision area and I had to wear a wound vac for two months after that. A home health nurse came to change my wound vac every two days and I can honestly say I have NEVER been in that much pain in my life! But my son was worth it…I would do it exactly the same!
    He was born weighing 1 pound 10 oz. and was 12 inches long. He was septic at birth and had several blood transfusions. He was also diagnosed with AOP, BPD, PDA, hypoglycemia and Anemia of Prematurity to name a few. A few days after Judah was born the doctor told us he had IVH(4) and suffered 2 strokes. The doctor gave him a 50/50 chance to survive them. I made the hour long trip everyday to see him, to hold his tiny hand and let him know that Mommy was there for him. We enlisted everyone we knew to pray for him.
    Judah stayed in the NICU for over 3 months. It was the hardest, most painful thing I had to go through in my life. When he would have good days I was on top of the world and when he would have bad days I would sit by his isolette and cry like a baby. But just to see him everyday gave me such joy and even though I couldn’t hold him for the first few weeks of his life I would sit and stare at the miracle God had gave me. When I did get to hold him it was Heaven to me!
    The doctors are still in awe at how well he is doing. He has several specialist doctors among them is an eye doctor(for ROP), a dietitian, and the master physician, God! I thank him everyday that he allowed my son to survive through all of it. It’s very important for people to understand the severity of premature delivery and the impact it has on society as a whole. I have now dedicated my life to spreading the word about prematurity and the little miracles that fight so bravely to stay alive.
    Everyday is a miracle to a premature baby, fighting behind the plastic wall. You can’t hear their battle cry but you can feel their love and support them with yours!

    • Claudia permalink
      March 5, 2010 9:41 pm

      I read the story of Cristal and the cause of the birth was an infection. In my case, my daughter was born 11 weeks too early because of the emotion received after i was fired of my job. 24 hours after my boss fired me y gave birth to my baby. She was born with 29 weeks.
      We had terrible moments, but after two months of especial care in the ASociación ESpañola de Montevideo, we had a happy end of story. Giovanna is healthy, she is 1 year old now.
      I hope that in the future the companies respect the laboral rights of the pregnant mothers. Here in Uruguay doesnt exists laws that protects rights of future moms. Its a real shame. Claudia

  9. Jamie permalink
    February 22, 2010 11:29 am

    HELLO CONGRALATIONS ON YOUR JOEY!!!!
    I HAVE BEEN IN YOUR SHOES, I HAVE TWIN BOYS WHO WERE BORN AT 24 1/2 WEEKS BORN JAN. OF 09 WEIGHING 1LB 8 & 1LB 4 AND THEY SPENT A LONG TIME IN THE NICU HOSPITAL. ONE OF THEM HAD 3 SURGERIES TO REMOVE MOST OF HIS INTESTINES HE HAS GRADE 3 BLEED WITH ALSO PVL AND HE HAD ALSO LASER EYE SURGERY FOR ROP. SO I KNOW HOW IT FEELS HAVING YOUR PREMATURE BABIES IN THE HOSPITAL.
    GOD BLESS TO EVERYONE !!!

  10. Brittany permalink
    March 3, 2010 6:22 pm

    Hi everyone!!! I was reading all of you guys stories and it just brought me to tears. I mean all these babies are so blessed in a special way. I can only imagine what you guys are going through. Well I also had a premature baby. She came 9 weeks early, I was 31 weeks when I had my bundle of Joy. It all happen on a Tuesday morning. I got up happy to be over morning sickness and got ready to eat breakfest and my water broke. Went to the hopital and the doctor told me I was in labor. I was in the hospital 3 days before giving birth to Lauren Janiyah Ison Sinkfield on Oct 23 2009 at 6:25 in the morning. She was 2lbs 2oz 15 inches long. I was so sad because I couldnt hold my baby or hear her cry. I later went to go see my baby and she was so little. But I was so happy all I could tell her is mommy’s here now and I love you. My baby is a mircle baby. My baby came out breathing on her on. No help needed. All baby had connected to her was her feeding tube. I was so happy all I could do was fall to my knees and thank God for what he has blessed me with. All she needed to do is gain weight. She spent 4 weeks in the NICU and came home the day before Thanksgiving. Her vision is great, she needed no surgeries, nothing. Im just so grateful. This my first baby and Im so happy. Now my bundle of JOY is 4 months old going on 5 months and weights 12 lbs. Thats my big girl. She talks now smiles all the time rolls over. Im just truly truly blessed. And it makes me want to become apart of the march of dimes, because of her and other babies. I know how it feels not to be able to take your baby home and wondering what the next day will bring. I will pray for all of you guys babies because they are a gift from the Lord.

  11. Joyce permalink
    March 4, 2010 10:19 pm

    I am so glad Joshua is doing so well. I have twin boys Andrew & Micah who were born at 33.5 weeks in 2004. Micah needed a little help with a canula and just to grow and feed in the NICU level 2 for 2 weeks. Andrew on the other hand had a small hole in his PDA and needed more help breathing on life support in the level 3 NICU, then when he did go to the level 2 nursey he got a blood staph infection and the night before Micah came home I got a phone call at midnight to get permission to do a spinal tap, then at 2 am another call to do a blood transfusion. Needless to say I was worn out before I had a baby at home. Andrew stayed in the hospital another 2 weeks before coming home 2 days before Thanksgiving. The only reason he came home then was the dr. on duty was rushing babies out. He was not eating for me or the nurses, yet he came home with no feeding tube just a bottle and good luck. This wasn’t my first baby, I have two older girls so I knew he should be swallowing his milk and not letting it drain down his face. At 6 months he was diagnosed failure to thrive, I had to fight with the insurance to get him therapy. Micah had reflux so bad that he lost weight, I was able to get him on some medicine and the right formula and he was fine. Now they are 5 and yes they are small, but they are normal little boys. Right now there are no current preemie issues. I thank God for my 2 blessings, they are not double trouble, just a double blessing.

  12. March 4, 2010 11:43 pm

    Joshua and all premature babies are our heroes, our daughter Emily was born 14 weeks early, weighed 2 lb and 3 oz, she spent 65 days in the NICU. She fought real hard from day one, we are so proud of her, NICU staff members did excellent job, she is healthy now and she does not let dad interrupt her when she is talking to mom, we are walking this year to support and appreciate march of dimes cause they do make a difference!
    Thanks,
    team Emily

  13. March 5, 2010 8:24 am

    I just wanted to say I know where you are all coming from. On December 26, 2005 I delivered Identical Twin Boys just into the 24 week mark. Gabriel weighed a mere 1 pound 8 ounces and Jack weighed a mere 1 pound 11 ounces. We did lose our precious Gabriel after 24 hours, but Jack remained in the NICU for 171 days – just shy of his 6 month birthday. We too experienced the ups and downs of NICU life. Jack was on a ventilator for 5 1/2 months and had several issues. He did lose a good portion of his bowels due to a perforation (due to ventilator pressures & him being so tiny), chronic infections, ROP, and PVL. Today he is a vibrant little boy that no one can slow down. He does have some setbacks with development, he has mild cerebral palsy, He has a G-tube, and still requires oxygen for severly damaged lungs. I got a tremendous amount of support from the March of Dimes when we were in the NICU. I have participated with my family for the last 3 years, and Jack is the 2010 Ambassador for the State of Wyoming March for Babies. I wish you all the luck in your life and with raising money and awareness for such a great cause. Tracey

  14. Jude Bonares permalink
    March 8, 2010 3:59 pm

    I also know how it feels to have a premature baby. I had twins Ashley weighing 1 lb 9oz and Abigail weighed 1 lb 8oz in 1997. It is always nice to hear of other familes that experienced the same thing we did. We did lose our precious Ashley after 7 months. Abigail is now 12 and doing great. it’s nice to to know that the March of Dimes continue to do research on our precious premature babies.

  15. Heather Lilly permalink
    March 19, 2010 11:33 am

    I love hearing these stories with the great endings! My son was born 3 1/2 months early and spent 3 months and a day in the hospital. He was 1 lb 14 oz. While he didn’t have an surgeries thankfully, he did have alot of problems which have all but disappeared. He will be turning 4 March 27th and we walk every year with the March of Dimes. Without their research he wouldn’t be here today. Thanks to everyone who supports their efforts and thank you Josh for sharing your story!:)

  16. March 22, 2010 4:28 pm

    My GRANDson Riley David Potter, will turn 3 in May. He was 1 pound and .8 ounce, when my daughter gave birth to him at 25 weeks. Riley was in the hospital for 153 days. He came home attached to oxygen for 2 months. As so many others have shared with you, we also were blessed. The beginning of his life was so fragile, and so was the rest of the family. The incredible care Riley received, while at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio was amazing. Not only did they care for Riley, they cared for the entire family. All staff persons at the hospital were true angels. To read about the many successes gives us such great hope. Riley is running, eats like a horse, and is starting to babble . He will wear glasses, but’ that’s minor. Until we had this experience, we had no idea how huge were the numbers of preemies. Our family is very excited about walking this year for the first time for the March of Dimes. This is something we will do for many years, and spread our joy, hope, and success to as many as we can. Thanks for sharing!
    Gigi

  17. Teresa Saylors permalink
    March 30, 2010 11:21 am

    I just want to say that I am so happy to see the number of babies that have been born prematurly doing so well. I have four surviving children (all born on time) and with no complications, however out Joseph was not so lucky. Joseph was my 4th child and was born at 17 weeks. He was only developed to 15 weeks and no one knew what had happened. I had had three “text book” preganacies per my doctors and there was really no reason that Joseph should not have made it. I only felt him move once and his heart beat was not what I thought it should be. Joseph would be 13 this year and we still miss him. My two older children remember how sad and lost my husband and I felt over this loss. I will be walking this year and raising money for this worthy cause as I have for the past 7 to 8 years. I pray that all babies will be born healthy and am greatful for an organization that helps to make this happen. God Bless everyone assocaitated with the March of Dimes.

  18. Irene Carle permalink
    April 21, 2010 3:44 pm

    God bless Josh! He is a miracle like my son, Kai. My son was born a little over 3 ibs and spent 26 weeks in NICU.I was told after he was born he might not make it. He was my first born son and I was so heartbroken and so filled with guilt that maybe I was to blame for his premature birth. I know now it was not my fault. Kai is now a “happy-go-lucky” 9 year old boy! He loves playing baseball and he is a cub scout. I am blessed with a happy ending. Life is a miracle…Josh is the perfect example of this. Mahalo Plenty~ Continental Airlines for your continued support of the March of Dimes! I am very proud to work for this company!

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