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Sunday, April 23, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

The March's "miracle babies"

Seattle Times staff reporter

Mount Tahoma High School football coach Leon Hatch was at football camp in Oregon last summer when he got news too outlandish to be true: His wife, 26 weeks pregnant, had driven herself to the hospital and delivered twins.

"That's a good one; you got me," he told his sister-in-law.

But he quickly left his players with another coach and raced home to deal with his new life as the father of premature babies. Kiana weighed 1 pound, 15 ounces — three ounces less than her brother, Makai. The two stayed at Swedish Medical Center for the next three months.

They made it through those rough first months and are now 10 months old. Carmin Hatch credits that, in part, to surfactant therapy, a special lubricant that helped her babies' underdeveloped lungs expand without chafing.

On Saturday, the Hatches thanked the March of Dimes — whose research led to surfactant therapy — by joining an estimated 5,000 people on a fundraising walk through downtown Seattle. As the walkers gathered at Qwest Field, hundreds of toddlers in backpacks and strollers stared wide-eyed and longingly at purple balloons dancing in the breeze.

"They're our miracle babies," said Carmin Hatch. She held Makai, nestled in a powder-blue outfit. "We take nothing for granted anymore."

The March of Dimes said it expected to raise about $690,000 in pledges on Saturday, and hopes to raise $1.1 million more in eight walks around Washington in the next month, said Valorie Fanger, a spokeswoman for the March of Dimes.

The No. 1 cause of infant death nationally, and the second in Washington, is premature birth. Money raised Saturday will fund more research and parent education about folic acid, a B vitamin that prevents birth defects of the brain and spine in premature babies.

Dr. Greg Sorensen, medical director for Swedish's Pediatric Specialty Care unit, said medical innovations help more premature babies survive and live without long-term complications.

But that does not always help the emotional toll on parents like the Hatches, he said. "We tell them it's like a marathon or a roller coaster — good and bad days for months on end," Sorensen said.

The roller coaster continues for the Hatches. Kiana was admitted to the hospital Saturday with an infection, and Carmin Hatch paused before the march to call her mother at the hospital. "I'm working on about 45 minutes of sleep last night," she said. "I'm used to it."

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published April 23, 2006, was corrected April 28, 2006. A previous version of this story contained an inaccurate description of the benefits of folic acid for pregnant women. It prevents birth defects of the brain and spine in premature babies, but does not prevent premature birth itself, as the story indicated.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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