MONTREAL -- World Prematurity Day is Nov. 17 every year, and the Préma-Québec organization is focusing on bright and hopeful journeys for families that experience a difficult birth.

Préma-Québec itself was born in painful circumstances. The idea of ​​this organization came to Ginette Mantha in a salon of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital, while her newborn was struggling for her life.

"I promised myself that if Vincent survived, without much damage, one day I would do something to help families who are lonely with a very sick baby," she recalled.

Ten years later, she founded Préma-Québec. Her grown-up boy is now helping some 6,000 families rushed into the world of intensive care for newborns every year in Quebec.

"When we end up in the neonatal unit with a baby connected, we wonder if it will end one day, where we go, if our baby is going to have a good quality of life," said Mantha.

Now 26 years old, her son Vincent Lalumiere shares his story to show that "even if the prognosis is bleak, premature babies also grow up and become healthy, functional adults."

Pulmonary embolism, cardiorespiratory arrest in utero, sepsis streptococci: multiple complications at birth, there are no traces.

Prematurity at various degrees

According to Préma-Québec figures, no less than 8 per cent of children are born prematurely in the province, most often for unknown reasons, and 85 per cent of them will not have any trace of it.

These statistics include both healthy babies, born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy, and those born before 28 weeks of gestation, for their part referred to as 'very very premature'.

"This is not the same kind of path that awaits these two patients," said Amelie Du Pont-Thibodeau, a neonatologist at CHU Sainte-Justine. "The more premature a child is, the smaller the child, the greater the risk."

But like prematurity, sequelae can mean a wide range of conditions, some very minimal.

"Most people associate the word 'sequelae' with cerebral palsy with complex problems, and sometimes the after-effects can be a hearing aid, glasses, an orthopedic device," says Mantha.

 Pont-Thibodeau cites vision, hearing and motor development as spheres that pediatricians often monitor more closely in these toddlers.

According to a position paper by the Canadian Pediatric Society, children who have survived extreme prematurity have in most cases no neurodevelopmental impairment or only a slight disability, such as a deficit in attention.

Pont-Thibodeau also discusses the work of Dr. Saroj Saigal, Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Pediatrics at McMaster University, Ontario, who found that prematurely born people claim to enjoy a very high quality of life, comparable to in many ways to that of their peers.

For the vast majority of premature infants, the trials surrounding their births are therefore rapidly fading away, until they are part of a distant past.

 "Very often, we will rub shoulders with prematures without even realizing it," said Lalumiere. "Many premature babies know their own story, but once you're healthy and life is good, it's not a big deal. And it's perfect like that."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2019.