TAMPA (FOX 13) - Saving babies is the March of Dimes' mission, and survival rates for babies born prematurely are on the rise.
John Luke is 9-months-old and crawling with joy. After he was born at 23-weeks, his mom and dad are, too. The beginning of his life has been an emotional journey for all of them.
"I just am unbelievably grateful for everybody that helped him," new dad John Visnovec said, as his eyes welled with tears.
"Amazes me how big he is," Nicole Ferrante declared while holding and rocking her son. "I never want to put him down."
John Luke's life nearly ended before it began 23 weeks through Nicole's pregnancy. Nicole's placenta was detaching from her uterus, meaning John Luke wasn't getting enough oxygen and nutrients, and his lungs weren't developing.
Doctors said they didn't know if he was going to come out breathing on his own or be alive. John was scared he was going to lose his fiance and his child.
Miraculously, they heard the most precious sound during John Luke's emergency delivery.
"It sounded like a little kitten crying," Nicole recalled.
It could be compared to a huge breath of relief.
John Luke could fit in the palm of a hand, weighing only one pound, 13 ounces. An incubator was his artificial womb. Tampa General's neo-natal intensive care unit was his home for 115 days.
John and Nicole know how much March of Dimes-sponsored research and treatments helped their son survive.
"He probably wouldn't be here today," Nicole said with gratitude in her heart. "So I want to say thank you."