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PR Agency COO Inspired by Personal Experience to Assist March of Dimes
Susan Klann

Kathryn Marshall, partner and COO of technology-focused PR & marketing firm 104 West Partners, Denver, has had more than the normal cares of motherhood.

In 2005 her daughter, Jordan, was born nine weeks early weighing just three pounds, six ounces, and endured a number of the complications common to premature infants. Her lungs were very immature, and she had a heart defect, among other problems. Far worse, however, was the discovery of something unusual during a routine ultrasound. The radiologists sent the tests to Children’s Hospital in for further examination by pediatric specialists, who confirmed that she had suffered a stroke in utero.

The prognosis for Jordan’s future was unclear. Her deficits might be not too significant, or they might be extremely severe. Most important, however, stresses Marshall, was the fact that the stroke was discovered so early. “When you can begin therapy so early with a child you can make a tremendous difference in the outcome,” she says. “Often something like a stroke isn’t discovered until a child is a year or older and the family begins to notice the child isn’t learning to talk or developing motor skills as he or she should. We were very lucky.”

Today Jordan, who has a mild case of cerebral palsy, is doing great, says Marshall. She credits the March of Dimes (MOD) organization for its role in prematurity research and in developing medications that were administered to during her first few weeks for helping to save her life.

The family “found its way to the March of Dimes and has spent the last couple of years using it as a resource,” says Marshall. Further, she has joined the local MOD communications committee as a spokesman to help spread the word to other families about its role in infant health from research to information to fundraising. In late 2007, the MOD Colorado Chapter recognized her for volunteer excellence for her achievements as a committee member as well as for her work to increase awareness and support for prematurity education. The organization is in a seven-year campaign to lessen the occurrence of prematurity, the #1 leading cause of infant death, nationwide; presently, eight babies die each week before reaching their first birthday. In 2005, the annual economic cost associated with preterm births in the was $26.2 billion.

“With our own situation thankfully we had adequate insurance, and our medical costs have been upwards of $500,000,” notes Marshall. “However, a lot of people don’t have insurance or are underinsured, and when we were transferred to Children’s Hospital we saw a lot of families that clearly did not have the resources they needed.”

Marshall believes one of the best ways for families to learn more is through the MOD website, which she notes offers a unique array of information on everything from how to recognize signs of preterm labor to how to have a healthy pregnancy to what happens if you do have a preterm baby or complication, what medical terms mean, and more.

Marshall attended high school in Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in finance. Out of college she joined an investment banking firm, Hanifen Imhoff, and then was assistant director of operations at a Wall Street investment fund, Unicom Capital LLC. Before forming 104 West Partners with Patrick Ward in 2003, she served as a director of public relations for Metzger Associates, Denver, a high-tech public relations agency.

Today 104 West Partners, which specializes in innovative technology companies, has grown to rank as the largest technology PR firm in Denver (it also has an office in Seattle). When asked about how she achieves work-life balance she notes that her career and her husband’s career have seemed to mesh at just the right time so that they can support one another as needed, sharing ’s doctors appointments and other duties. “Many of my female acquaintances are pursuing opportunities as consultants or entrepreneurs,” she says, “as they seek balance in their lives.”

For more information about the March of Dimes, go to www.marchofdimes.com; 104 West Partners is at www.104West.com.