Helping Defy the Odds

Portrait of Keisha Alston.

Late in the summer of 2004, Alston said she had terrible back pain the night prior to her six-month pre-natal appointment. Though that symptom was common, nothing that came after it would be, including the extraordinary little girl born later that night.

“I have to give, because when I needed it, there were people to help me. ”
Keisha Alston, Educational Opportunity Center
Helped by Women and Children's Hospital

Keisha Alston’s mother donates to the United Way every year on her granddaughter’s birthday.

That donation is among several Alston and her family make during the year as part of a celebration for Amajin, a child born so premature she was not expected to survive.

“I tried to sleep off the back pain, but couldn’t,” said Alston. “An ambulance had to bring me to the hospital.”

But Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital was not equipped to care for a child delivered before the completion of her mother’s second trimester.

Alston was transferred to Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and her daughter, Amajin, arrived on Aug. 5, more than three months before her mother’s Nov. 28 due date.

The 1.7-ounce child would have fit in the palm of an adult hand, so tiny that even veteran nurses said she was the smallest baby they had ever seen.

The prognosis was grim, but Alston’s confidence never wavered.

“Amajin defied all the odds,” said Alston, a counselor at UB’s Educational Opportunity Center. “She is a very active 11-year-old.”

Today, Alston reflects on the experience and thinks about all the ways United Way donations were silently at work, helping to care for a small child in big ways.

“I’m grateful there is an agency like the United Way,” said Alston. “It’s the individual donations that help pay for things like the incubators in the neonatal intensive care unit and that provide for the overnight rooms so mothers don’t have to leave their babies.”

“I have to give, because when I needed it there were people to help me,” says Alston

And that includes donations beyond Amajin’s birthday and during the Campaign for the Community.

“My husband and I were married five years ago,” she said. “Instead of wedding favors we made a donation to Women and Children’s Hospital on behalf of our wedding guests. In addition to our annual gifts we will repeat that donation this year and every five years after that.”