Serving mothers and babies through the March of Dimes and Signature Chefs Auction
By Laura Ross
Family photos courtesy of Kelsey Petrino Scott
“It all happened very quickly. It was frightening, fast and then, there she was – all three pounds, three ounces of a tiny baby.”
One year ago this week, Kelsey Petrino Scott and her husband, L.D. Scott, were enveloped in a dangerous situation that threatened the lives of both Kelsey and their newborn, Anissa.
The daughter of University of Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino, Kelsey and her husband, a UofL football defensive line coach, were no strangers to precarious births. Each of their first three children – Brianna, 8, Braylon, 6, and Emmett, 3 – were born prematurely, and Emmett began his life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
But this time was different. Anissa’s arrival, at just 32 weeks, was potentially perilous for both mom and baby.
One in 10 babies is born prematurely, and premature birth is the number one cause of infant death. The U.S. has one of the worst rates of maternal death in the developed world. Additionally, African-American women are significantly more likely to die and give birth prematurely, and their children can face a 130 percent higher infant death rate.
The statistics are sobering and only affirm the importance of the work of the March of Dimes, a cause Kelsey and her family support. The six – including baby Anissa, who recently celebrated her first birthday – will serve as the Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction on Nov. 8.
Despite three previous premature births, Kelsey had a relatively normal pregnancy with her fourth. But in October 2017, in the midst of a busy UofL football season, the family enjoyed a visit to a local pumpkin-picking farm. A couple of days later, Kelsey noticed swelling in her feet and hands. It quickly spread to her face and other areas. “I almost didn’t recognize myself,” she said.
Her blood pressure was elevated, and she was put on modified bed rest for two weeks while her husband and father headed to Florida State University for an important game.
“Bed rest is hard with three children, but my goal was to stay out of the hospital,” Kelsey said. However, a routine trip for an ultrasound and checkup showed her blood pressure had skyrocketed, and she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a dangerous and potentially fatal complication.
“I told my mom I had a feeling something was very wrong,” recalled Kelsey. “They wouldn’t even let me go home to pack a bag.”
She was immediately admitted to the hospital. After several days, Kelsey awoke with sharp stomach pains, which alarmed her doctors. An emergency C-section was ordered, with fears for her life and her unborn child’s in the balance.
“I had talked to my dad earlier that morning, and he had consulted with doctors in Florida and was freaking out, even though I was assuring him I was OK,” Kelsey recounted. By the time they spoke again, Bobby Petrino had already arranged, with help from the Florida State staff, for L.D. to fly home immediately on a private plane.
“My husband arrived at the hospital, they were waiting to scrub him in and they rolled me away,” Kelsey said. “I realized then it was a true emergency.”
Soon, their daughter Anissa was born. She weighed in at just over three pounds and was whisked away to the NICU, where she stayed for more than two weeks.
“When your baby is in the NICU, it’s like time freezes,” Kelsey explained. “You know all this stuff is going on around you, but the most important thing is that little infant lying there. You feel how much they need you. That was the hardest part.
“Because of the preeclampsia, I was stuck in bed after I’d given birth to this tiny baby,” she added. “I couldn’t even hold her or see her because the doctors’ focus was on me, to prevent me from having seizures or a stroke. My daughter was at her most vulnerable point, and I couldn’t be there at first. That was so hard.”
A Signature cause
Kelsey is grateful for the support provided by her family, friends and March of Dimes representatives when her children were in crisis.
“I was lucky enough to be able to focus on my NICU babies and be there every step of the way – to see them when I could, hold them when I could. I know that’s why they had short NICU stays,” she said. “Many people don’t have that opportunity and must stay there a lot longer, or the parents must go back to work, or they don’t live 15 minutes from the hospital. I was really blessed I could be with them in the NICU and get them home as soon as possible, with continued support from family and the March of Dimes.”
Events like the Nov. 8 Signature Chefs Auction help fund research to keep mothers and babies healthy and safe throughout pregnancy and birth. This year’s soirée, which will be held at the Omni Hotel, will welcome several hundred guests for an evening of feasting on culinary treats from 30 elite Louisville chefs, led by Volare Executive Chef Joshua Moore, who has recruited top chefs for the event for 11 years. The event also features dozens of silent and live auction items, and most importantly, will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for research toward preventing premature births and resulting health issues for mothers and babies.
“Our goal this year is to raise $325,000,” said Carolyn Harper, senior development manager for March of Dimes Kentuckiana. “Funds raised go toward research centers across the country that are trying to get to the bottom of why babies are born prematurely. One study at Stanford University is developing a blood test that is showing an 80 percent accuracy on determining if a woman will deliver early. This could be a lifesaver for both the mother and baby. Doctors can intervene, and hopefully it would lead to many more happy endings if a mother could have a simple blood test.”
Funding also assists an initiative that began in Kentucky called Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait, which focuses on targeted delivery dates after 39 weeks. Additionally, money raised provides education and resource programs for hospitals and expectant moms on wellness issues like smoking cessation, good nutrition, regular obstetrical checkups and ways to keep both the mother and baby healthy.
For Signature Chefs Event Chair Marla Guillaume, president of Century Lending Company, leading one of Louisville’s biggest fundraisers is a challenge she happily tackles, with an eye towards both fun and the mission. “We have to continue the research for babies before they come into this world and help all babies and moms have a normal pregnancy and delivery,” she said. “This event builds awareness and is a fun evening. It fills my heart to be able to know how much our culinary community gives to the March of Dimes each year.
Chef Josh Moore does a phenomenal job of getting with the chefs to give their time and amazing food. I find a new favorite restaurant to add to my list every year.”
Finding the Solution
Historically, March of Dimes was established by the need to find a cure for the polio epidemic. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt implored Americans to send spare change to the White House to raise money, people responded, and in time, a cure for polio was discovered through research funded by the organization.
“It’s amazing to think that back then, by people sending their pocket change, we found a cure for something as big as polio,” mused Carolyn. “Imagine what we can do with social media and all the ways we have to raise money today. In one night, in Louisville, Kentucky, we raise upwards of $325,000 for the March of Dimes. Just think what we can do for babies when the entire country responds like that.”
The Signature Chefs Auction is emotional for all involved. “When it’s all clicking, it’s so gratifying,” added Carolyn. “When you’ve given your heart and soul all year long to raise money while always keeping the mission in mind, we know we’re making a difference. I’m a firm believer that we’re part of a global effort to help healthier moms have healthier babies.”
“The thing that helped me the most was giving in to the situation,” recalled Kelsey. “You can’t have control over it, and you have to trust the doctors and trust the research. My complications were not at all what I wanted or had planned, but I had to let fate carry me. Luckily for me, it turned out fine each time I had a premature baby. They’re all healthy today.
“All the nurses called Anissa feisty,” she continued. “She may have been a teeny-tiny baby, but that never occurred to her. She did things that no one expected a baby her size to do. She overcame it all, and we are so thankful.” VT
The Voice-Tribune is a proud sponsor of the Nov. 8 Signature Chefs Auction benefiting the March of Dimes.
Meet the Cover Girls
Harper and Bennett Rohrer are the daughters of Erica Rohrer, who served as event lead for the 2017 Signature Chefs Auction. At 10 months old, these little ladies are full of personality and were naturals in front of the camera. Though Harper and Bennett were born early at 37 and a half weeks, they didn’t have to spend any time in the NICU and are both healthy.
“We were very lucky,” said Erica. “March of Dimes really helps moms understand the importance of folic acid and prenatal vitamins, so I made sure to do everything I could while pregnant to make sure they were as healthy as can be. We attribute a lot of their success to the advancements March of Dimes has made.”
Signature Chefs Auction
Omni Louisville Hotel
5:30 p.m. Nov. 8