Zoe Saldana took a breath. Standing onstage at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Monday night, the “Avengers: Endgame” actress then began recounting the “dangerously early” premature birth of her twin sons in 2014. It’s a story she’s previously told multiple times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it gets any easier.
“I was acutely aware of the fact that their lives were not in our hands,” she recalled while accepting an award from Jhpiego, a global health nonprofit that works to ensure women, children and families have access to timely, skilled, high-quality health services. “They needed assistance just to breathe. My husband and I were at the mercy of the professionals and their advanced medical equipment.”
Thankfully, Saldana’s sons Cy and Bowie recovered in a neonatal intensive care unit. In fact, they’re now joined at home by a younger sibling, Zen.
“The doctors and nurses saved our sons, and as all three of our boys grow older, they get to lead happy and healthy lives, thanks to modern vaccinations [and] advanced medical care,” she said.
“Not every story has a happy ending like ours,” Saldana continued. “Too many women lack access to adequate medical care before, during and after pregnancy. Too many children are born in places that don’t have the life-saving tech to keep a premature baby breathing. And too many children fall ill to diseases because they did not receive vaccinations.
“These deaths are preventable,” she added. “I want every mom and every child to have access to the same life-saving care that we did.”
The actress — who has worked with numerous charities like Shot@Life and Brave Beginnings to ensure newborns have access to life-saving immunizations and quality care — was honored at the gala alongside her husband, artist Marco Perego-Saldana. Onstage, he took a moment to thank the women in the room, and then told the men, “We should all be better listeners to the women around us.”
Saldana accepted the honor just after “Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box-office records over the weekend. Of the coincidence, she told The Times, “I feel grateful, I feel responsible, I feel present, and I feel absolutely pumped to keep working.”
Paramount film President Wyck Godfrey and obstetrician-gynecologist Mary Kerr were also lauded at the event, which featured performances by Chelsea Peretti and Garfunkel and Oates. Emceed by Tom Papa, the annual fundraiser was an evening that mixed entertainment, healthcare and philanthropy — shared passions of married couple Kerr and Godfrey.
“We spent some time together to prepare our speech,” Godfrey said. Kerr then finished his sentence: “In a way, tonight is also our date night.”