LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - In case you didn't know, November is national premature birth awareness month. Wednesday News 10's Alani Letang introduced viewers to a miracle child who's giving back, 17 years after her remarkable birth. Her name is Amara Finnie, she was born on November 29, 2000. If you can imagine a newborn fitting into the palm of your hand, you can image Amara. When she was born she weighed only one pound and seven ounces, and here is her story.
"I may be small, I may be three months premature but I am special," said Amara Finnie.
17 years ago she was fighting for her life in Sparrow's Reo-Natal Intensive Care Unit because she was born three months premature. "Me being so small Its kind of a miracle for me to even be here," said Amara.
The night of her birth, Amara's mother Kimberly Finnie went into her doctor's office for severe pain. Kimberly told us she had pre-eclampsia and had swelled up like a balloon from the time she was two months pregnant.
She was only in the doctor's office for a short time before they told her to haul it down to the hospital. And at the hospital, it was within hours Kimberly was giving birth to Amara at 27 weeks and 5 days. However, it was 36 hours before she saw Amara because of her own health complications. After the delivery, Kimberly said she was sure Amara did not make it because of how early she delivered. When Kimberly found out Amara was alive, she said she was hesitant at first to see her. Kimberly's mother showed her pictures of Amara and urged Kimberly to go and see her daughter. "I was scared to form any connection with her beyond what I already had because I didn't want to fall in love with her face to face because I didn't want her taken away," said Kimberly Finnie, Amara's mother.
Kimberly told Letang she quickly got over that fear and indeed fell in love with Amara. Amara's home for her first next nine weeks would be an incubator. "I was there as much as I could be to bond with her. I used to have to get away from her Isolette (incubator) because if I tried to talk to people over her, she reacted to me pretty severely" said Kimberly.
Amara is now a healthy 17 years old junior at Williamston High School. She is giving back to her humble beginnings, though her religion. As a church confirmation project her mentor, Bonnie Kipp, approached her with the idea of sewing angel gowns for Sparrow's NICU. "She's a very confident teenager, show me how to do it, and we can figure this out," said Bonnie Kipp, church confirmation mentor. Amara told us, "And that was a sign that there was nothing better, that I could've done."
At first, Amara said she didn't realize the significance of an angel gown. It is an outfit for a preemie, given to the family, for when their baby passes and mostly being used for a final picture with their little one. Amara said she first pondered on the idea of making one, "One of the things that I thought about when I was thinking about doing it was, why would I want to do this when I could've been one of those. Then I thought well why wouldn't I?"
Kipp said it was a moment of realization for Amara "when she completed her first gown, she cried when she realized that this was the gown that was my size, that could've been mine." But knowing that one of those gowns could've been her own, is what motivated Amara to complete the project, "I want to make someone's life better. The angel gown makes it almost bearable."
During this confirmation process, Amara said she grew in her faith, and she thanks her mentor for guiding her through that path and opening her eyes a little wider. "If I weren't have been able to do this then I don't think that I would be as confident or as happy as I am now and as proud of myself as I am," said Amara.
Amara's gowns are for preemies, and she is a preemie, but that doesn't begin to define her. Her mother said, "It's not all that makes her special, she's a good person. She's an all-around good person." And as Amara and her family have looked back at her baby pictures they tell me they are only reminded of the hard-worker she was and still is.