Did you know that over 450,000 babies are born premature in the United States every year? And 15,000,000 worldwide. Because of their early arrivals preemies are more susceptible to a myriad health issues including apnea, PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosis ) and RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome ). But technology and science continue to evolve. In fact, a preemie born today has a much greater chance at survival compared to only 10 years ago.  Keep checking back for more factoids.

The Gift of a Name

When you name your son after" The Champ", "The G.O.A.T (The Greatest Of All Time)", and that man dies, a small part of you does too.  Your memory takes you back to the night that your son received that name.  It brings back the sights, sounds, even the smells and feelings of those moments when you weren’t sure if your baby would make it out of the NICU.

Picture it:  Two parents in a fog, recovering from the birth of their first child who arrived three months too early.  The doctors told us, “He may not survive, but if he does, prepare yourself for a long road with a child with severe brain damage.”

As my husband and I sat there in my hospital room, we were told we needed to finalize our son’s name.  Hours earlier, when our little guy was just a few minutes old, my husband gave him a first name, for fear that he might die without one.  Smart man!  For months we would go back and forth putting boy names in the air to see how they echoed in the hallways of our small home.  For some reason a boy's name presented more of a challenge. I couldn't understand why - we had a girl's name picked out months ago! 

By some grace my husband ultimately gave our new son the first name that I wanted, "Carter."  Maybe he was being nice, or maybe he felt sorry for me. Who knows?  I was still in surgery, and then recovery.  He could've named him anything and there would be nothing I could do about it.  Our son now had a first name but we still needed a middle. Still under the lingering affects from the morphine drip, I now know I was in no condition to name anything, much less brand this human being with something that he would wear for the rest of his natural life. My husband continued to weigh his options.  I think he figured if he couldn't own the first name, he would surely make an impact with the middle one. As if it really meant something, right?

I was coherent enough to realize that Carter, and all of us, would be in for the fight of our lives. Naturally, we did what any parent would do. We gave him the name of one of most famous fighters of all time, Muhammad Ali, but as an homage to his younger days, when he was less widely known and relied more on his raw, natural talent than technique, we gave him the Ali's surname, "Clay".

Our son’s middle name would be "Clay."  We always feared that The G.O.A.T. would be upset that we picked a name that he had changed and fought hard to get people to respect it, but we would explain to the champ that it was the spirit of the name that we wanted to capture and hold for our son.  We would tell him, and then he would understand!  His mother gave him that name and while Muhammad Ali is what he is known for, we believed that there was power in the birth name of the man who would eventually become the greatest.

This picture was attached to our son’s isolette in the NICU every day for the 3 months we lived at that hospital.  Tiny boxing gloves hang in his room today from the Muhammed Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.  Whenever there is something ahead of him that requires a "fight", he is reminded of his name. Whether it's grinding for a math test or getting psyched up for a football game.

Today, we are saddened to learn about Muhammed Ali’s passing.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.  I think if the Ali family were to read this, it may bring a smile to their faces to know that that THIS tiny baby DID survive, even though so many do not.  Today he is 12 years old with nearly all straight A’s, plays football, basketball, baseball and soccer - all the things doctors told us he might not ever do – he’s doing them.  And to us he’s doing them with grace of a butterfly and the sting of a bee.   With seemingly no ill effects from his early arrival, this young man is living up to his birth name.  Thank you, Muhammed Ali for your Greatness.  You will be missed.  Your name lives on in a young man who was given a fighter name – and fight he does. 

Rest in Peace.