Elise Jackson

Mother of Elijah, the 2015 March of Dimes National Ambassador, and long-time employee of United Airlines, the program's airline sponsor.

In 2002, Elise and Todd Jackson were eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. Elise’s pregnancy appeared to be progressing normally, until, at 20 weeks, she awakened one morning to find that her water had broken. Elise went to a hospital, but since active labor contractions had not yet begun, doctors administered IV fluids and advised bed rest. A month later, Elijah Jackson was born at 25 weeks and one day of pregnancy – about 15 weeks too soon. He weighed one pound and one ounce. He was 11 inches long, the length of a sheet of business paper.

Initially, he was given only a 10 percent chance to survive and spent seven months in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit. He underwent several delicate surgeries in the early weeks of life, and has been through years of physical, speech and occupational therapy for the long-lasting health consequences of his early birth. For his first two years he had a tracheotomy (open airway in the windpipe in his neck) to help him breath, and was unable to speak. Today, Elijah’s speech is greatly improved but he still has developmental delays and is enrolled in special education classes.

Got a tip?

Do you have info to share with HuffPost reporters? Here’s how.