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Baby Boost

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WSVN -- From the moment they are born it's a struggle to survive.

Rosa Rodriguez: "She totally was a surprise coming early."

Rosa Rodriguez knows what that struggle is like. She was told something was wrong with her baby two months before her due date.

Rosa Rodriguez: "They monitored her and said 'Whoa, there's a problem, Gianna looks very small.'"

Gianna was born weighing just two pounds.

Rosa Rodriguez: "There's nothing you can even imagine. It was very scary."

10 months later, Gianna is learning to roll over and crawl thanks to therapists at Palmetto General Hospital's Rehab Center. They say it's critical premature babies start physical therapy as early as possible.

Because they're so tiny therapy needs to begin before they leave the neonatal intensive care unit. First, therapists work on positioning preemies bending their knees to make them feel like they're still in the womb.

Diana Arenas: "Positioning is very important because those babies are going to be weeks or months in the NICU."

Many preemies suffer from sensory dysfunction meaning they're hypersensitive to touch. That's why crawling can be a big challenge.

Diana Arenas: "They're going to avoid some pressure on the knees and hands."

So Diana gently rubs a brush on the baby's legs to get them used to the stimulation, and since they tend to be irritable, she swings them because the movement helps relax baby.

Diana Arenas: "They're very fussy or very cranky we put them in the swing."

It's been a long road but Gianna is learning to crawl and stand up with the goal of walking on her own proving preemies can live a long and healthy life with a little boost early on.

Lynn Martinez: "Experts say preemies should receive this type of therapy until about the age of two or until they start crawling and then walking."

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Rehab Center at Palmetto General Hospital2001 West 68th StreetHialeah, FL 33016Tel: (305) 823-5000www.tenethealth.com

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