Columbus Cottonmouths

Maddie's mom designs toys for premature babies

Almost 4 years old, Maddie Lefcourt owes her life to the Children’s Miracle Network personnel and technology at The Medical Center.

Her mom is ready to return the favor.

Donna Lefcourt designed and is preparing to launch a line of toys specifically sized and shaped for premature babies’ hands.

“She had to learn to roll over, hold her head up and hold a bottle,” Lefcourt said of her daughter. “When it was time for Maddie to grasp toys, they were all too big and too heavy.

“I searched all over for lightweight, tiny toys and couldn’t find them. So I designed and developed three toys: a rattle, a hand toy and a teether.”

Her husband is former Cottonmouths trainer Joe Lefcourt, and she found help from Jason Bray, Cottonmouths assistant general manager and director of marketing and promotions.

“Donna saw me in the Cottonmouths’ program and thought I could help with the marketing,” Bray said. “I helped with the logo and giving the company a name.”

The Maddie’s World logo features an M for Maddie and W for her twin brother Will. It also shows a butterfly and five-and-a-half handprints, symbolizing Maddie’s development and the number of months she spent gestating in the womb before she was born.

Lefcourt and Bray were stunned to learn of the need for the toys Maddie’s World will provide.

“There are 500,000 premature births in this country every year,” Bray said. “We want to reach out to 5-10 members of each of those families. It’s not just mom and dad involved.”

The website for Maddie’s World is already up and running, but one toy is still unavailable, so they’re waiting until it arrives for the full launch.

“Our first call was from France, from a guy who wanted to distribute over there,” Bray said. “This is not a local product -- it’s a global one. When you do a search for ‘premature baby toys,’ you’ll find Maddie’s World right near the top.”

Bray wants to market the products to Neonatal Intensive Care Units all over the country.

“We want to send them samples and information packets,” Bray said. “When the product gets off the ground, a percentage of the profits will go to Children’s Miracle Network.”

A battle

Lefcourt doesn’t hesitate to credit Children’s Miracle Network for her own little miracle, and says the funds from Maddie’s World will go toward what kept her daughter alive.

“The special incubators that the babies stay in cost $35,000 to $40,000 each,” Lefcourt said. “They weigh them and monitor their body temperatures. It’s a special bed designed to hold the babies. The monitors that keep their blood pressure and heart rate are a separate price.”

Annually, the Children’s Miracle Network gives $600,000 to support children’s services at the Medical Center.

Lefcourt became involved as a way of giving back.

“I go to 90-95 percent of the events and tell our story,” she said. “You never know when it will happen to you.”

Maddie and her twin brother, Will, were born on April 16, 2007.

Three days after a routine checkup in which all was well, Donna Lefcourt went into labor.

“They tried for 36 hours to stop labor,” Lefcourt said. “They gave me magnesium sulfate, which was supposed to relax the muscles of my uterus. Instead, it relaxed my lungs and I couldn’t breathe.”

Will made his appearance first, at one pound, eight ounces, followed by Maddie at one pound, five ounces. Both were 11 inches long.

“Both were in trouble right away,” Lefcourt said. “The hardest thing to do was to leave the babies at the hospital when it was time for me to go home.”

The day after Donna left the hospital, Will was quiet and still and had little energy. After his parents visited Will and Maddie and talked to the doctors late that afternoon, they went home.

The Lefcourts got a call asking them to come back, but it was too late. Will died around 7 that night.

“It was devastating to lose him,” Lefcourt said. “But the worst thing was that we never got to hold him alive.”

Maddie spent 105 days in the hospital and survived a grade four brain hemorrhage, which can cause developmental issues. She came home on July 29, four days before her due date, and is now a happy, healthy child.

“They kept my baby alive,” Lefcourt says. “I want to help keep another baby alive.”

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