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Dublin’s Rantz Family Named 2014 March for Babies Bay Area Ambassadors

March 20, 2014
The Rantz Family

The Rantz Family

In the United States, each year over a half a million babies are born too soon – 50,000 alone in California. This is a staggering statistic. To complicate matters, in over 50% of the cases of preterm birth, the causation is unresolved. For decades, the March of Dimes organization has led a national campaign to place a spotlight on this crisis. Their mission statement reads “We help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies.” Despite these adverse numbers, many infants go on to live healthy and happy lives. Of course, there are those that survive, but some that live with cognitive, digestive, vision and hearing loss. In so many ways, it is the luck of the draw. By definition, a micro preemie is a baby born weighing less than 1 pound, 12 ounces or before 26 weeks of gestation. Because they are born months before their due dates, micro preemies often face long neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stays. By the numbers, infants born at 22 weeks experience a 10% survival rate. In contrast, those born at 26 weeks have a 90% survival rate.

This preamble brings us to a kindergarten student at Frederiksen Elementary School, Brooklyn Rantz. Brooklyn’s parents, Rich and Kathy married in 2005. Rich is a manager at Patelco in the DMV Department and Kathy is employed by Chevron in their Gift Card Program. OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Rantz family to discuss the fascinating odyssey of their daughter.

When Kathy unexpectedly experienced contractions 16 weeks early on the morning of November 17, 2007, Rich and Kathy went to the ER at ValleyCare in Pleasanton. After the nurses in Labor and Delivery were unable to slow down Kathy’s contractions, she was taken via ambulance to Alta Bates in Berkeley where they able to slow her contractions for almost two days.

While in labor over the next two days, Kathy was given two shots (one each evening) to help develop Brooklyn’s lungs. When Brooklyn was born, she was put on a ventilator and taken immediately to the NICU. Brooklyn came out “feet-first” with just one push weighing one pound, five ounces. She had lost so much blood so she had to be given a full blood transfusion immediately.

The reason Brooklyn had to be transported to Children’s Hospital in Oakland (CHO) was because at the time, Alta Bates didn’t have the capability of performing a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) heart ligation procedure. They do today so the back and forth wouldn’t be necessary for babies born there now.

Brooklyn spent two weeks at Alta Bates, then eight at CHO, and when she was healthy enough to be transported back to Alta Bates via ambulance where she spent five more weeks until she was healthy enough to come home. She came home on 3/7/08 – four days before her due date. They were told when she was born that if she would survive, that she would most likely come home within a week of her due date.

OneDublin.org: With Brooklyn arriving unexpectedly early, what were the primary health challenges that she was facing? What was her prognosis?”

Rich & Kathy Rantz: “Her prognosis was very bad. We were told that her chances of surviving were about 20% – 25% and if she did survive, there was an 85% to 95% chance of her having serious health and developmental issues including cerebral palsy and blindness. While Kathy was in labor, the neonatologists and nurses were very honest with us and we were honest with them. While we wanted to do everything we could to ensure our daughter lived, our main goal was to ensure that she had a good quality of life. We always told the doctors that we didn’t want to go to extremes if she wouldn’t have a good quality of life.”

OneDublin.org: Upon her release to home, what did your caregivers advise you for her future care and development?

Rantz’s: “When Brooklyn came home, we were sent home with oxygen and a monitoring device which she was to wear each night. The oxygen was only for precautionary reasons in case her oxygen saturation should fall below normal levels. We used the monitoring device the first night and after a false alarm due to a lead falling off, we never used the device again. We were advised that anyone who visited (which should be limited) needed to be in good health and we were to have antibacterial products on hand for everyone to use.”

“When we went back to work full-time, they hired a nanny to care for Brooklyn because she couldn’t be in contact with any other children for the first year. Brooklyn had five doctors who followed her progress for the first six months after she was home.”

OneDublin.org: Today, she appears to be a happy and healthy kindergarten student at Frederiksen Elementary School. What have the early years of her development cycle taught you about Brooklyn and other kids?

Rantz’s: “We were challenged when Brooklyn entered pre-school at Resurrection Lutheran since she had not been socialized with other children due to her early birth. She was very shy and tended to follow the teachers around all day and didn’t interact much with other children during her first couple of months. Once she was comfortable, though, she made some very good friends (they’re still best friends to this day) and we made good friends with their parents. We formed what we call “The Disneyland Group” and we all (five families) go to Disneyland together every summer as well as do many other activities together year-round.”

“At first we were worried about how other children would interact with Brooklyn since she was so shy but we learned that children in general are very accepting and eager to make friends. Every child is different – some can be mean, but most are nice. We have just taught Brooklyn to focus on the good things and if anyone is mean to her that she should just say, ‘That isn’t nice’ and walk-away. Fortunately she hasn’t had to worry about that at Fred since, for the most part, all of the children seem to treat each other with respect.”

OneDublin.org: Please explain how your family became a Bay Area Ambassador Family for the March for Babies this year. What does your role encompass?

Rantz’s: “Since Brooklyn was born, we wanted to give back in some way and pay our good fortune forward. Kathy started participating in the March for Babies when Brooklyn was two years old. She and Brooklyn walked every year with the Alta Bates Team, raising money to help raise awareness of premature birth in the hopes that others don’t have to go through what they did. In 2013, Kathy set-up a fundraiser at Chili’s in San Ramon. She received an email from a director at the March of Dimes who noticed her fundraising efforts and asked about why Kathy got involved. Kathy shared Brooklyn’s story with her (Whitney Woods – MOD) who attended the Chili’s fundraiser. In October of 2013, Kathy received an email from Whitney asking if we were willing to be the March for Babies Ambassador Family for the Bay Area in 2014.”

OneDublin.org: The March of Dimes is a national organization. Please explain what it means to your family to add leadership to their local goals and initiatives.

Rantz’s: “Honestly, this opportunity means the world to us. We are absolutely humbled and honored to be in this position to be able to get our story out there in order to raise awareness and funds to ensure other families can experience a normal pregnancy with a happy and healthy outcome. Our ultimate goal is to continue this mission every year so that each year we can raise more and more funds for this very important mission.

“Our contact at the March of Dimes was just promoted to a national position which means much more exposure for this mission. She will be focusing on working with a group of specialized doctors at Stanford who are going to be doing research as to how they can test pregnant mothers for the possibility of an early birth and then finding ways to prevent premature labor and birth.

“When we got the email from Whitney, Kathy cried. Our daughter means to the whole world to us and we couldn’t be more proud of her. We want to ensure other families get to have the same outcome.”

To complete the circle, OneDublin.org sat down with Brooklyn’s kindergarten teacher, Ms. Brenda Gundell. Brenda attained her B.A. in Liberal Studies from Cal State University East Bay in a addition to a multi-subject teaching credential. Subsequently, she earned a M.A. in Teaching Leadership from Saint Mary’s College. She is currently in her tenth year of teaching for DUSD. The first nine years have been spent in the first grade and she is now a kindergarten teacher – largely due to enrollment increases at Frederiksen.

OneDublin.org: How did you become aware of Brooklyn’s previous medical challenges?

Brenda with Brooklyn

Brenda with Brooklyn

Brenda Gundell: “I became aware of Brooklyn’s health when Mrs. Rantz brought it to my attention at a conference. Since then, I learned more about March for Babies when Mrs. Rantz asked me to give a flyer to each family member in my classroom about the upcoming fundraiser at Chili’s and the walk in Pleasanton.”

OneDublin.org: On a daily basis, you are responsible for the welfare and advancement of 25 kindergartners. Describe what Brooklyn adds to your classroom.

Gundell: “On a daily basis, Brooklyn is a joy to have in my classroom. She is a hard worker and gives it her best when learning. She treats her classmates with kindness. Brooklyn loves to be creative with art; drawing, coloring, cutting paper, making little books. She loves princesses. Her favorite color is pink. Brooklyn likes to sing, be silly and laugh. After you meet Brooklyn you would never think that her life began with such life threatening medical issues. She is a vibrant, happy girl, full of life!”

Ms. Gundell added a final anecdote. She described how the students were learning about community helpers – such as police, firefighters, construction workers, teachers, etc. Then it was the kid’s turn to write about who and what they wanted to be, Brooklyn wrote: “When I grow up, I want to be a mom.” She accompanied her passage with a picture.

While premature births are an ongoing reality, this story demonstrates that miracles can come true. OneDublin.org would like to acknowledge the Rantz family for their willingness to share their epic story. Further, a March of Dimes fundraiser will occur at Chili’s in Pleasanton on Thursday, April 10. 20% of all proceeds will be donated to the March of Dimes. Finally, a fundraising walk will take place at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 26 @ 8:00 AM. Information can be found at www.marchforbabies.org/krantz23.

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