FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - More than 8,000 babies are born in South Carolina too soon, with all kinds of health problems, but thanks to the level-three neo-natal intensive care unit at McLeod Regional Hospital and the South Carolina March of Dimes, more of those babies are surviving.
Three-year-old McKinlee York is one of those survivors. Today she is able to play make believe with her mother; that's a miracle her parents didn't think they would ever experience.
"We were very scared - very, very scared," said Erin York, who was forced to deliver her baby girl early due to pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure.
York had McKinlee at McLeod on May 29, 2012, only 26 weeks and three days into her pregnancy. McKinlee weighed just 1 pound and 3 ounces, and was 11 inches long.
From there, it was a fight to live.
McKinlee got sepsis and something called abdominal compartment syndrome, which forced doctors to open up her intestines for numerous gastro-intestinal surgeries.
"They gave us less than a 10 percent chance, numerous times, of survival," said York.
McKinlee would later be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her mother says she'll likely always need help walking.
But McKinlee is a survivor, and her family says they owe it to the neo-natal intensive care unit and the March of Dimes.
As a level-three NICU unit, McLeod is equipped to treat preemies with expertise and equipment other community hospitals don't have.
"Our staff is very committed to the work we do," says Gayden Tyler, the clinical nurse manager for the unit. "We love to take care of our babies and their families."
The SC chapter of the March of Dimes and McLeod have a history. Since 2005, McLeod has raised more than $175,000 dollars for the Greater Pee Dee March for Babies.
And the organization recently provided the NICU unit with a $30,000 grant used to fund a lactation consultant.
"March of Dimes is wonderful," said Tyler. "We could not do the work we do with out the support of March of Dimes."
And it's the reason the Yorks agreed to be the Pee Dee region's Ambassador Family at this year's annual March of Dimes March for Babies.
They want their journey to bring about more awareness so that more babies like McKinlee have the best chance at life.
Organizers hope to raise $150,000 this year. The March for Babies Walk is the first Saturday in May at the McLeod Health and Fitness Center in Florence.