Georgia Infant Inspires March for Babies Teams and People Worldwide

April 13, 2015

Brayleigh Richard is the topic of a globally read blog, center of attention for a growing number of Facebook followers and even a budding local hero. To top all of Brayleigh’s many accomplishments, she’s 6 months old and surviving a rare birth defect.

Boasting a name that means “ray of hope,” Brayleigh has marked her own path in life, defied the odds and inspired thousands of others along the way.

Born Oct. 8, 2014 at Emory University Hospital Midtown, doctors delivered a heartbreaking birth outcome to mother, Sabrina Bowens-Richard, and father, Chris Richard, before Brayleigh’s birth.

“When I was five months pregnant with Brayleigh, my doctors informed me about her Trisomy 18 diagnosis and told me she would be 'incompatible with life,'” said Sabrina Richard. “Over the past few months, she’s been doing so well. Now, I like to say that she’s ‘compatible with life and love.’”
 
Trisomy is a chromosomal disorder that is characterized by an additional set of chromosomes. Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, is one of the most life-threatening Trisomy disorders and develops when babies have a third eighteenth chromosome rather than the normal two.
 
The disorder can cause heart and brain defects, developmental delays and physical abnormalities such as webbed feet or clinched hands. There are several types of Trisomy disorders, the most common being Trisomy 21 (Downs syndrome), Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18.
 
From birth, Brayleigh entered the world a fighter. She was born five weeks early and endured several extended stays in the hospital during her first four months of life. Despite needing supplemental oxygen and nourishment from a feeding tube, Brayleigh braved a daily fight for her life. 
 
Since going home in January from her third hospital stay, Brayleigh has continued to meet and exceed many developmental milestones. 
 
“The doctors are in awe,” said Richard. “This disease is so rare that many of the doctors have never had a patient with the disease before. They’re going by outdated medical journals that say babies with Trisomy 18 won’t thrive, but Brayleigh is cooing, smiling, attentive and happy. She is raising her head and learning to feed from a bottle. It’s amazing to see her progress.”
 
For babies like Brayleigh, prenatal care is vital as it assists health providers and families proactively identify birth defects in unborn children and organize life-saving medical treatments for them after birth.  
 
“Brayleigh’s inspiring story demonstrates the importance of prenatal care services for Georgia’s families,” said Seema Csukas, M.D., Ph.D., Maternal and Child Health Section director at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). “Health evaluations during pregnancy can assist in early detection of birth defects or other health challenges for both mother and child, ultimately allowing medical professionals time to establish treatment plans that foster more positive health outcomes.” 
 
The Richard family turned what could be a somber experience into an empowering moment they wanted to share with the masses. They launched a blog, Team Brayleigh, to document her milestones, daily activities and continued journey with Trisomy 18. 
 
Brayleigh's blog has garnered an international following stretching from Georgia to locations around the globe. 
 
“At least once a day someone tells me they’re inspired by Brayleigh,” she said. “I even heard from a friend in Africa that called to say they follow Brayleigh online and are moved by her story. I had no idea she would touch so many people in such a short amount of time.” 
 
The Richard family also recently signed up to participate in the March of Dimes' March for Babies annual walk event on April 25 at the Georgia World Congress Center. One of the March of Dimes’ staple annual fundraising activities, this family-friendly gathering unites people from all walks of life throughout April for one ever-important cause – healthy babies.  
The Richard’s want their March for Babies participation to carry a greater message.
 
“I want people to rally around Brayleigh’s cause and other children dealing with medical issues,” Richard said. “I’ve seen strong babies that I like to call ‘warriors’ struggling in intensive care units and wanted to do more to support families like ours.”
 
“Families dealing with things like this tend to be very closed off from others and don’t always know other families dealing with the same things,” she continued. “March of Dimes provides a good support system and I would not have known that until I spoke with them for the March for Babies walk.” 
 
Despite the challenges of Trisomy 18, the Richard family always keeps a very clear mission top-of-mind to keep them encouraged, motivated and inspired. 
 
“We’re making as much noise as we can to prove that not only are these babies ‘compatible with life,’ they’re compatible with love,” she said. “It is our mission to spread awareness, be Brayleigh’s voice and give hope to other families that have received a similar diagnosis for their child. Brayleigh is here for a reason and she’s taught all of us an important lesson about unconditional love and perseverance.”
 
For more information about the March of Dimes and its annual March for Babies events, visit www.MarchforBabies.org

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