Vancouver families credit March of Dimes with saving kids' lives

Both families aim to healp nonprofit group

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Have you participated in 5K walks or runs?

  • Yes, I run/walk in 5Ks regularly. 11%
  • Yes, I occasionally participate in 5Ks. 30%
  • Only if the event benefits a charity/cause I support. 8%
  • No way. Running/walking isn't my thing. 51%

61 total votes.

If you go

• What: March of Dimes' 5K March for Babies. Money raised helps support prenatal wellness programs, research grants, neonatal intensive care unit family support programs and advocacy efforts.

• When: 9 a.m. Saturday.

• Where: Esther Short Park, 610 Esther St., Vancouver.

• Register: Visit or call 800-525-9255. Day of event registration begins at 7:45 a.m. at the park.

Carmendy Rodas was born early — too early, her mother feared. But despite the odds, Carmendy survived. Today, the sassy nearly 2-year-old is learning to talk. She's already mastered the word "no."

Holdyn Hanset was given a 4 percent chance of surviving. Today, Holdyn is a talkative 3-year-old who likes to go shopping and is walking on his own. His cognitive development is in line with that of 5- and 6-year-olds.

The parents of both Vancouver children credit the work of the nonprofit March of Dimes for their keeping their children alive.

The Rodas and Hanset families are ambassadors for this weekend's March for Babies in Vancouver. The 5K walk is a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. The March of Dimes, which has chapters across the country, strives to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

In Washington, about 1,600 babies are born each week. Nearly 10 percent of those babies are born premature, according to the March of Dimes.

The work of the nonprofit, and its dedication to the health of babies, has left a lasting mark on the Rodas and Hanset families.

"If they didn't exist, he may not be here," James Hanset said of his son, Holdyn.

The Rodases

For seven months, LaNae Rodas had a perfectly healthy pregnancy. Then one evening, LaNae started feeling nauseous. As she lay on the couch in the early morning hours, she started feeling a stabbing pain in her back. When she got up, LaNae discovered she was covered in blood.

Her husband, Jorge, rushed her to the hospital.

"By the time we got to the hospital, I was just hoping there was a heartbeat," LaNae said.

Doctors found a heartbeat and told LaNae they needed to perform a cesarean section immediately. If they didn't, the baby was at risk of suffocating on the blood, doctors told the couple.

"I just couldn't wrap my head around what she'd look like, what kind of future she'd have," LaNae said. "I knew it was too soon."

Carmendy was born at 28 weeks' gestation — 10 weeks earlier than what's considered the minimum for a full-term pregnancy. She weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce and was 14 inches long.

"You don't imagine the first time you see your child will be her covered in wires and the length of a pencil," LaNae said.

Carmendy spent 98 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland. During that time, she received seven blood transfusions and light therapy for severe jaundice. She had several other complications at birth, including severe gastroesophageal reflux disease, apnea, abnormal eye development and difficulty eating.

But today, Carmendy is thriving. Her neurodevelopment is on pace with other kids her age. She's learning to talk with the help of a speech therapist. She no longer needs occupational and physical therapy. And she finally registers on the growth chart for children her age.

"She's quite sassy, but it's really her fighting spirit that got her through the NICU," LaNae said.

In celebration of Carmendy's birthday — she turns 2 on April 29 — the Rodas family is participating in the March for Babies.

While in the NICU, LaNae and Jorge received support and information from the March of Dimes. The nonprofit's research saved Carmendy's life, LaNae said.

"It's really nice to honor all the babies — those who made it and those who didn't — and to really celebrate her," LaNae said. "We know we could be walking for a totally different reason than to celebrate her."

The Hansets

About 5 1/2 months into her pregnancy, Holly Hanset was placed on hospital bed rest. Her cervix was opening too early, putting her at risk of preterm delivery.

Two weeks later, her water broke. Within 10 minutes, Holly and James Hanset were heading into the operating room.

Holdyn was born at 24 weeks' gestation. He weighed just 1 pound, 8 ounces and fit in his dad's cupped hands. Neonatologists gave him a 4 percent chance of surviving.

"He was pretty darn tiny," James said.

Holdyn spent 134 days in the NICU at the Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland. While in the NICU, Holdyn twice had pneumonia, requiring him to be placed on powerful ventilators. He had dual hernia surgery and double laser eye surgery. A brain scan a month after his birth revealed Holdyn had a brain bleed. A ventricle in his brain collapsed, which required surgery to place a shunt in his head.

Doctors told James and Holly that Holdyn wouldn't likely walk or talk.

"To date, he has overcome all those obstacles," James said.

Holdyn turned 3 years old in February. He goes to preschool and works with physical and occupational therapists. Though a little wobbly on his feet, Holdyn is walking.

Not long after Holdyn left the NICU, the Hansets were introduced to the March of Dimes. They and other families from the NICU formed a team and walked in the Portland March for Babies. The next year, they walked in Vancouver, just as they will this weekend.

"We knew this would be a great way to get out and help other families," James said.

The family advocates for the nonprofit and reaches out to other parents of premature babies. They hold fundraisers for the nonprofit and spread the word about research and programs available because of the March of Dimes.

"We hope with the effort we give, they'll be able to conquer this someday," James said of the nonprofit.