Husband and wife raise funds for UW Medical Center's NICU

Carlene Anders and Gene Dowers celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in early August. To commemorate such an event, most couples would take a trip to an exotic locale like Hawaii, and pamper themselves. Anders and Dowers opted instead for a pre-anniversary 500 mile "cruise" on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, a trek that is doubling as a fundraising drive for the March of Dimes and the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The couple hit the water July 1, with a launch at the Canadian border. Cities, towns and sights they've passed along the way include Kettle Falls, Enterprise, Timm Ranch, Chelan, Odessa, Wanapum Dam, Fish Hook Park and Wind Dust Park.

Anders and Dowers' 5-year-old son, Danny, was born in UWMC's NICU on Dec. 24, 2002 at 24 weeks and four days. He weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces. Danny spent 115 days in the NICU and, according to Anders' records, he endured 86 chest X-rays, collapsed lungs, a chest tube, eight blood transfusions, heart surgery, hernia strangulation, eight ROP (retinopathy of prematurity) eye exams, and was on a ventilator for seven weeks. During Danny's stay, Anders said the NICU became her second home. "The nurses, doctors and the staff there… everything was a real blessing for us," she said.

The Pateros, Wash.-based couple--who also have a daughter, Jessi, 12--said they still keep in touch with health-care team members from UWMC. Some UWMC staff meet the family for ski trips during the winter months at Stevens Pass.

While strong bonds and connections were made at UWMC, the family said Danny's stay at the NICU was also an incredibly trying time. "It was hard for us with a 24-week-old because he was the sickest baby on the wing for a lot of the time," said Anders. "I remember just searching for a 24-week-old boy and trying to find a positive story. It was difficult to find, with one that had come out okay. We search for those stories and want to make sure someone else can connect with those stories in the future, and let them know there is hope… but it's also very difficult. It's a roller coaster ride, and it's unbelievable."

Getting their story out is one of the reasons they decided to launch the fundraising event. Dowers said the couple took this very same trip right before they got married, as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. "Obviously, Danny changed our choice of charities,"said Dowers. "The impact of UWMC and the NICU has been huge in our lives. We are eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses and others that helped us keep Danny in our lives, and that just won't change."

To learn more about the rowing trip, visit

Published on: 2008-07-25

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