Like many young adults Baylee Carroll is excited, and nervous about heading off to college.

"I started last week actually, it was my first week. It's good. It's a bit of a change," said Carroll.

It's a major accomplishment for anyone, but especially this young woman who got off to a bit of a scary start in life. Born at only 31 weeks and weighing just 2 pounds she required intense care to stay alive.

"Premature is when you're born too early. There's lots of health risks that come with it and the survival rate isn't as high because you're very small and not as developed as normal babies," Carroll explained.

During her nine weeks spent in the NICU Baylee's parents depended on local agencies to help with costs.

"Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals helps kids from birth up to age 18 and we're there basically as a safety net to help whenever parents can't cover expenses associated with their child's care," said Tim Siebert, Executive Director of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals of CoxHealth.

The agency helps with purchasing specialized medical equipment, transportation costs and physical therapy costs. They step in to help families of kids affectionately referred to as "miracle babies."

"A lot of our children are called miracle babies or miracle kids because often times miracles do happen. We see situations where a baby overcomes insurmountable obstacles in their care and it's just amazing to see what happens, and to see them thrive long into adulthood," Siebert explained.

The March of Dimes was also instrumental in Baylee’s early childhood care. The organization provided surfactant therapy to help Baylee breathe which made it possible for her to survive. Baylee also received newborn screening tests at birth. The March of Dimes recommends screening for at least 30 diseases and conditions including CCHD (Critical Congenital Heart Defect) which is already saving lives. 

And for Baylee, making it out of those extreme circumstances with no major health problems is both a blessing and an opportunity that she'll never take for granted.

“[I'm] very blessed because I know that lots of babies do have health problems and they don't turn out as normal, so I consider myself very blessed," said Carroll.

Baylee is attending MSU West Plains. She eventually hopes to transfer to the main Missouri State University Campus in Springfield to study music education.

March of Dimes is a global non-profit organization that helps moms have full-term pregnancies and researches problems that threaten the health of babies. In Missouri, March of Dimes is currently investing almost $3 million in research to learn more about prematurity and birth defects. For the first time in 30 years, the rate of premature birth is declining thanks to March of Dimes research and educational efforts.