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Grandmother Turns Heartbreak Into Advocacy For Premature Babies, Their Parents

Jennifer Ort with her granddaughter Abigail (courtesy Jennifer Ort)

Jennifer Ort with her granddaughter Abigail (courtesy Jennifer Ort)

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - When a baby is born prematurely, it is incredibly hard on the parents. That’s where this New York City grandmother comes in.

As a maternal newborn nurse, Jennifer Ort shared in many happy births, but the birth of her own granddaughter was wrought with complications. She was born seven weeks early with a rare cardiac anomaly.

“Abigail lived in the NICU for five weeks, where she underwent a number of surgeries, but unfortunately, on April 25th of 2012, her fight, or her battle, in the NICU, ended and Abigail passed away,” Ort told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond.

It hit Orte hard.

“Devastated. Helpless,” Ort said. “The first thing you think of is why does this happen to us?”

She was also worried for her son and daughter-in-law.

“We worry about ‘Oh my goodness. What is my child going through?’ I wish there’s something I could do to fix their heartbreak,” Ort said.

Even though her heart was broken, two days later, Ort, who had planned to walk with the March of Dimes in honor of Abigail, walked in her memory.

“I have to say that she had a purpose here and her purpose was to say ‘Find out how to fix this. Find out how to let other babies live,’” Ort said.

Abigail Orte (credit: Jennifer Orte)

Abigail Ort (credit: Jennifer Ort)

Ort has channeled her grief and energies into an effort to help the March of Dimes engage grandparents in the fight against prematurity.

“I could be the voice for grandparents to say ‘Come on. This is what we can do and this is how we can help support our children in their time of need,’” Ort said.

Remember the March of Dimes’ March for Babies is this Sunday in Manhattan. You can join WCBS 880′s Pat Farnack and CBS2′s John Elliott. Click HERE for more information.