Miracle baby sister inspires studentby Ashley Morris
When you’re 12 and awaiting the arrival of your baby sister, you probably have big-sister visions of holding her, hugging her, squeezing her rosy cheeks and feeding her a bottle of formula.
Coastal Carolina University sophomore Chrissy Damore, however, had her first introduction at age 12 to her baby half-sister, Diana Katherine Damore, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. She couldn’t touch her. Diana was born 12 weeks early on June 13, 2003, weighed only 1 pound, 4 ounces, and measured in at a mere 13 inches long. One scrapbook photo at a few days old reveals their father’s gold wedding band sliding off Diana’s tiny wrist like a loose bangle bracelet.
“I remember how tiny she looked under the bright lights of the incubator. I remember looking around at the other babies in the room, the parents standing over them with deep lines of worry in their faces. I remember the feeling of joy when finding out another baby had improved and moved into the room for ‘healthier’ babies,” says Damore. “Most of all, I remember the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach when I noticed an empty space where a baby had been fighting just the day before.”
Diana, considered a micropreemie, had developed Intrauterine Growth Retardation, a human growth deficiency, while in her mother’s womb. Doctors decided baby Diana would have a better chance of survival if an emergency C-section was performed. She spent 72 days in the NICU, undergoing a multitude of medical procedures because of infections and difficulty breathing. It was touch-and-go at times.
“I knew there was a serious issue the time there were seven of us standing around her incubator – and we would visit her daily, sometimes twice a day, for more than a week – and the doctor was putting his hand on Diana’s chest saying, ‘Breathe, baby, breathe,’” recalls Damore. “And then we were asked to leave, and we all sat in the waiting room and said nothing, but cried.”
Diana survived, gradually gaining weight and strength until she was finally able to go home from the hospital at 3 months old and 3 1/2 pounds – and miraculously didn’t have to rely on any machines or medicines upon her release. “The whole ordeal reminded me, not to sound cliché, but that life is so fragile,” says Damore. “And not to take life for granted. It’s amazing what the power of prayer and positive thinking can do!”
Today Diana is a healthy 7-year-old, active in art, soccer, gymnastics and track. While she has no developmental disabilities, she is petite for her age because of the human growth deficiency and will most likely max out her height as an adult at 4 feet, 6 inches. “She knows she’s smaller for her age and knows exactly what she went through as a baby,” says Damore. “It’s so amazing to see her grow and so easy to forget what she went through, because she’s so active.”
Damore’s family – Diana; her half-sister Sophia, age 5; her stepmother Veronica, a schoolteacher; and her father Tom, a retired New York City firefighter – moved south to Murrells Inlet four years ago, while Damore, a marketing major at CCU, still lives in Queens during the summer.
They will all be walking with Team Diana at the March of Dimes’ March for Babies April 30 starting at Brooks Stadium. Damore is team captain and constantly promotes the fundraiser for the more than 9,500 babies in South Carolina born premature each year. The March of Dimes funds research to reduce the number of premature births and provides comfort and information to families with infants in a NICU, just as Diana was. “I’m telling my friends that, you know, we are in our 20s and are going to be mothers down the road, so this could be your baby,” says Damore.
For additional information about Diana Damore, visit www.marchforbabies.org/ChristinaDamore. Registration for the Horry County March for Babies begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 3-mile walk at 9:30 a.m. starting at Brooks Stadium and continuing throughout campus. Registration can be done – and donations can be made – online prior to the event at www.marchforbabies.org. To join the President's Team, sign up at www.marchforbabies.org/team/t1448941. To start your own team with a club, business or group of friends, call Crystal Hummer, executive director of Horry County March of Dimes, at 843-488-3463.