POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. - Weighing a single pound, Charlie Smith joined the world in November 2017. He was only 25 weeks old.
"He came out crying. We could hear a tiny cry, but we heard him - and they rushed him into the NICU," mother Alena remembered.
After nearly one year in the neonatal intensive care unit at two different metro-area hospitals, medically fragile Charlie finally headed home to Powder Springs but with nursing services still critical.
"There were life-sustaining machines that were required for him. To breathe, to eat. He had a tracheoscopy ... which means he could not breathe from his mouth," Geunevah Lafontant with Optimum Pediatric Services explained.
With Charlie, now 3 years old, ready to "graduate" from his at-home care, Lafontant couldn't just say goodbye. She organized a celebration for the little boy and his family, with Cobb County police and fire crews, along with medical staff from Charlie's hospital stays, part of a parade and ceremony.
Based on her family's journey and its tests, mother Alena created a foundation called "Trust Your Strength."
The charity provides self-care packages to moms at the hospital, and uses her family's own experience to encourage the loved ones of other preemies:
"Giving other families hope - acknowledging that yes, it's hard right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel."
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