Graduation parade marks milestone for Georgia 'miracle baby'

Weighing a single pound, Charlie Smith joined the world in November 2017.  He was only 25 weeks old.

"He came out crying. We could hear a tiny cry, but we heard him - and they rushed him into the NICU,"  mother Alena remembered.

After nearly one year in the neonatal intensive care unit at two different metro-area hospitals, medically fragile Charlie finally headed home to Powder Springs but with nursing services still critical.

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"There were life-sustaining machines that were required for him.  To breathe, to eat.  He had a tracheoscopy ... which means he could not breathe from his mouth,"  Geunevah Lafontant with Optimum Pediatric Services explained.

With Charlie, now 3 years old, ready to "graduate" from his at-home care, Lafontant couldn't just say goodbye.  She organized a celebration for the little boy and his family, with Cobb County police and fire crews, along with medical staff from Charlie's hospital stays, part of a parade and ceremony.

Based on her family's journey and its tests, mother Alena created a foundation called "Trust Your Strength."

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The charity provides self-care packages to moms at the hospital, and uses her family's own experience to encourage the loved ones of other preemies:

"Giving other families hope - acknowledging that yes, it's hard right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel."

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