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Funding Would Allow State to Monitor Premature Births, Birth Defects

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RALEIGH — North Carolina has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country -- only Mississippi and Alabama rank higher. Birth defects and premature births are the two leading causes.

Doctors do not know why this is happening. Now,state lawmakersare looking at a program aimed at finding answers and saving lives.

Emily Trachtman is a typical, healthy baby girl. But that was not the case a year ago.

When she was born on March 29, 1999, Emily weighed just 2 pounds, 3 ounces.

"That was the most devastating event of my life," says parent Karen Trachtman.

Emily was born 10 weeks early and stayed in the hospital for nine weeks.

"There are no words to describe to you what we went through watching our child be so severely ill for so long," says Karen.

Doctors say they need more information about premature births like Emily's and birth defects in order to help prevent them.

"If we can't get this information we're not going to have improvements," says Dr. Thomas Sadler of the UNC Birth Defect Center. "Our state is about 48th in the country with infant mortality. That's really bad. It's been that way for well over 11 years now. We were 50th in 1989."

State lawmakers are looking at funding aBirth Defect Monitoring Programto track birth defects and premature births.

TheMarch of Dimessays the program makes good health senseandgood fiscal sense.

"If we can just prevent 50 percent of one particular birth defect, neural tube defects, the state will save over $2 million in Medicaid costs," says Kay James of the March of Dimes.

The Trachtmans also believe the program will help the state save the precious lives of children like Emily.

"She is healthy, happy, wonderful. We got through our first year and she is fine. But we were the lucky ones," says Trachtman.

Karen Trachtman had a condition calledpreeclampsia, a pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. No one knows what causes it or what prevents it.

These are the kinds of things the monitoring program would track. Doctors then might be able to see a pattern that could help prevent the condition in the future.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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