Jamisen's Journey: Pee Dee family wants story of their "miracle baby" to help March of Dimes

Jamisen Wright would spend two months and two days at the McLeod Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit in Florence. (Source: Asia McPhail)
Jamisen Wright would spend two months and two days at the McLeod Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit in Florence. (Source: Asia McPhail)
Jamisen Wright was born the size of her mother's hand. (Source: Asia McPhail)
Jamisen Wright was born the size of her mother's hand. (Source: Asia McPhail)

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - More than 58,000 babies are born prematurely in South Carolina every year, according to the March of Dimes.

Then there are the more than 1,700 who are born with a birth defect. Sadly, 400 babies in the Palmetto State will die before reaching their first birthday each year.

In Florence, there's one little girl who has managed to beat the odds. Her family calls her their miracle baby.

There are dozens of baby pictures of Jamisen Nichole Wright and each tell a different story of how she is a survivor.

"She's a fighter, she's a strong baby," Asia McPhail, Jamisen's mother, said as she talks about how doctors and nurses at McLeod Children's Hospital NICU in Florence would describe her.

A tiny infant the size of a hand would spend the first few months of her life fighting to live.

"It was a scary but blessed time for us," McPhail said.

Jamisen was born 14 weeks early. According to McPhail, doctors diagnosed her with an incompetent cervix, which would make her prone to experience pre-term labor.

She says she lost her first child at 22 weeks. Later, her son Aiden, now 7, would arrive four weeks early.

"I was scared," McPhail said.

The mother's fears were confirmed because on Oct. 28, 2016, at only 26 weeks and two days into her pregnancy, McPhail gave birth to Jamisen. The infant came into the world weighing one pound, 11 ounces.

"She had all those tubes and machines hooked up and when I first saw her I was like, 'Oh my God, is this my baby?' She was the size of my hand," McPhail said.

Jamisen's lungs barely developed and she relied on machines to breathe. Despite being on a ventilator, her mother said her baby girl didn't give up. Doctors soon began to notice a change.

"Eventually, like five days later, they took her off the ventilator because she was breathing over the ventilator," said the proud mother.

With the help of a CPAP, Jamisen began to breathe on her own. For two months and two days, McPhail's baby would live at the McLeod NICU.

"It was difficult to leave your baby in and going back and forth. It's tiring," she said.

The family says they relied on their faith to push through the trying times, never losing hope.

"I felt like God was going to answer my prayer and my baby was going to be alright," McPhail said.

Sitting in the living room of their Florence home, they family laughs because they understand how blessed they are to have Jamisen with them

"I call her my miracle chocolate drop," Linda McPhail, Jamisen's grandmother, said while laughing.

Linda also resigned from her job to care of Jamisen after doctors told the family she wouldn't be able to attend a daycare.

"There is a God. I was there from the beginning until now, so yes there is a God. It is a living God, yes it is. She is a miracle," Linda said.

Now at 18 months old, despite all the health complications at birth, doctors say the tough little girl is healthy and happy.

"(She has) no issues, no complications, no surgeries, no breathing machines, no none of that," McPhail said with a smile.

The McPhails say they are truly thankful, to God and to the NICU staff.

"They were amazing at the McLeod's NICU, they did everything possible they could do. They even went over and beyond," McPhail said.

The South Carolina chapter of the March of Dimes and McLeod Children's Hospital have been fighting for the health of all moms and babies for a long time.

Each year, with help from the March of Dimes, the neonatal intensive care unit cares for at least 500 babies.

It is just one reason the family agreed to be the Pee Dee region's ambassador family at this year's annual walk.

"It made me want to get involved when I had experienced this," McPhail said. "March of Dimes, they come in, they help with technology, all things that the moms need, to stop or prevent pre-term labor, all while you are going through the NICU experience."

This is the second year they have participated in the March for Babies Walk, representing 'Team Jamisen' to bring awareness to the cause so that babies like her will have the best chance at life.

"We always say, 'Oh, we're strong,' but we never know how strong we are until we're faced with things," McPhail said. "So this has been a challenge, this has been a learning experience as well, and I can say I am stronger as well."

Join the McPhail family for the March of Dimes March for Babies Annual Walk on Saturday, May 5, at 9 a.m. The walk will take place at the McLeod Health and Fitness Center in Florence, SC.

March of Dimes organizers say they hope to raise $150,000 this year. To donate, click here.

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