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Falcons' Bryant, wife help babies get healthy start

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Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant and his wife, Melissa, have teamed up with the March of Dimes on a mission that's become intensely personal.

Bryant discovered his football talent back in grade school in Texas, but finding his mission took longer. that came when Melissa gave birth to Tre six weeks early in 2006.

"He was born weighing only 3 pounds, 10 ounces.  Tiny little thing, Matt could hold him like a football in his hand," Melissa said.

Bryant was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the time, and Tre's hospital was right across the street from team's training facility.

"During practice, there's a little bit of time in there where guys can eat lunch and stuff, I would walk across the street and go feed him," Bryant said.

That's when Bryant saw the world of the neonatal intensive care unit filled with babies -- some of them critically ill -- born too soon.

"And seeing your child laying there, in the incubator, with the tubes coming out of their nose and their little arms and hands, that's tough -- to see those little boys and girls fighting," Matt Bryant said.

It was there that the Bryants found March of Dimes.

"At that moment, we really just knew this was going to be our mission, little did we know what our future entailed," Melissa Bryant said. "In 2008, we had another son, Tryson, that passed away of SIDS, at three and a half months old."

In their loss, Melissa and Matt were supported by March of Dimes and hundreds of other parents.

"A lot of families who had lost children," Melissa Bryant said.  "There was a lot of public outreach to us as parents. Not just as Matt Bryant, the football player, but as a mom and dad who had lost a three and a half month old baby."

When Matt joined the Falcons, he and Melissa teamed up with the Georgia chapter of March of Dimes. Since then they've had twins, also born premature.

"When we go and speak at March of Dimes events, or we can talk to another family who has either had a premature baby, or has lost a child, I am not the person to say, ‘I can't imagine,' because I was that person," Melissa Bryant said.

Matt Bryant says he's living his dream every Sunday. That's what he wants for all of the babies.

"We don't know what they want to be, the little boys and little girls, but through March of Dimes, and helping these kids, we're going to give them a good chance to be whatever it is they want to be," Matt said.

Every year, about half a million American babies are born pre-term. Six of Melissa Bryant's seven children were born early.

The Bryants and March of Dimes will try to spread the word that healthy babies are worth the wait, encouraging women not to schedule elective early deliveries.


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