When 6-month-old twins Mason and Karter Barget were born, their arms were smaller than an adult finger. Indeed, each of their arms could fit inside the wedding band of their father, Kyle Barget, of Timonium.
The twins were more than three months premature and each weighed less than two pounds when they entered the world on Dec. 19, 2016, said their mother, Marion Barget.
The twin boys faced numerous obstacles after delivery — blood transfusions, constant tests, phototherapy, surgery, feeding tubes and the need for oxygen tanks — but thanks to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the twins were able to go home safely in the spring, the Bargets said.
This Sunday, the Barget family will participate in a Father's Day 5K at GBMC that raises money to support the hospital's NICU, where the Bargets spent the first 109 days of their sons' lives. Marion Barget said she plans to run with whichever son is cooperating that day in a running stroller, while her husband walks with the other.
The annual event has raised more than $1.75 million for the NICU over the past 28 years. The department treats more than 400 critically ill and premature babies each year in its 30-bed facility, according to associate director of special events Morgan Cook.
Marion Barget describes the experience her family underwent after the twins' birth as a "rollercoaster."
"One day is good and the next day you're three steps back," she said. "You think it's going to get easier, but it doesn't."
The Montessori primary teacher delivered through C-section, taking two weeks off after delivery to recover until the end of her school's winter break.
In January, she returned to teaching and split her time between the classroom and the Towson hospital. Karter was given the all-clear to come home in early March, though Mason's turn didn't come until April.
Hospital officials are hoping to register 1,000 participants for the June 18 race and raise $120,000, including sponsorships and hospital fundraising, for equipment upgrades, staff education and other enhancements to the NICU, Cook said.
Just a single piece of equipment the NICU needs, a General Electric Giraffe Warmer, costs $40,000, Cook said. The warmer directs heat directly to infants with a design that allows for easy access to the patient, according to the product's website.
"Some babies have problems regulating temperature so this creates a nurturing and healing environment," Cook said.
The NICU constantly must upgrade its equipment so that the hospital can give the infants who pass through it the latest in care, Cook said.
The event will also feature a Wellness Village from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the South Chapman parking lot.
The village is open to the public and will feature health-related vendors, including a teddy bear clinic for injured stuffed animals, and music and prizes from radio station MIX 106.5, which will have a van at the event. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore will also host a kids' area with animals to pet and observe.
"It's just and additional source of entertainment for the families who aren't running this race and for after the race is finished," Cook said.