‘Miracle baby’ born to comatose mom after family let child grow
A family in rural Alaska is welcoming a “miracle baby” they’ve named Faith, after she was born via C-section July 8 to her dying mother, who has been in a coma and on life support for the last six months.
No one knew Jessie Ayagalria was pregnant when she suffered a seizure and cardiac arrest in January of this year. The 29-year-old had been living with her aunt and talking about wedding plans with her boyfriend of ten years. Her mother, Shirley Jerry, told the local KTUU news station that in the moments before Ayagalria collapsed, she had been laughing and talking with family members. Nothing seemed to be wrong.
“I could hear her laughing with her uncle and the other sister,” Jerry told KTUU. "Next thing I know they were hollering for me and I told them to call 911. It happened just that fast.”
Paramedics were able to restart Ayagalria’s heart and transport her to a local hospital. When they arrived, doctors examined her and decided to medevac her to a better-equipped hospital in Anchorage. But before they put her on the helicopter, they delivered the family some surprising news: their exam had revealed Ayagalria was three months pregnant.
The family’s joy over the unborn baby quickly turned to grief. Upon the family’s arrival in Anchorage, doctors there informed them that Ayagalria had no measurable brain activity – she was considered clinically brain dead, and unlikely to ever wake up again.
Ayagalria’s uncle Henry Combs told KYUK the family’s initial instinct was to take Ayagalria off life support and let her and the baby go. They didn’t believe that with so many months left in the pregnancy, it would be possible for the infant to thrive.
“There wasn’t much hope at first. Most of the doctor’s at ANMC said that she couldn’t carry the baby, that it wouldn’t work out,” Combs told KYUK.
But one neurologist, Dr. Brian Trimble, urged them to reconsider. He said it was possible that with the help of a feeding tube, oxygen, and IV hydration, Ayagalria would be able to carry the baby past the point of viability.
“I thought I was losing a baby and a daughter till I found out that she was able to carry the baby,” Shirley Jerry told KTVA. “I wanted to try at least.”
In the end, baby Faith was able to keep growing inside her mother until the 35th week of pregnancy, when she was finally born via C-section. She had some trouble breathing and spent a few days in the NICU, but has since been released, and her family says she is doing well. Ayagalria’s sister, Krissy Medina, plans to legally adopt the child.
“She’s eating a lot more. She’s growing. She makes me laugh everyday,” Medina told KYUK. “Seems like it’s like my sister being born again. Her whole face looks like her, especially her nose and her cheeks.”
“She is amazing and exceeding doctors expectations of her everyday,” Ayagalria’s cousin Catherine Greydanus wrote on the family’s GoFundMe page, where she is posting updates and raising money for baby Faith’s care. “She is quite the fighter.”
“Just amazing that we were able to go on this complicated journey, that we weren’t sure what the outcome was going to be and to actually be able to see her there and be able to hold her and know that she is healthy and growing stronger every day is a blessing,” Greydanus told KTVA.
As for Ayagalria, her family removed her from life support after baby Faith’s birth. She died three days later. A funeral was held for her on Saturday. Henry Combs told KYUK he believes his niece’s abuse of alcohol was what led to her seizure and subsequent death. He said he feels it’s important to share that part of her story because alcohol dependency is such a widespread problem in Bethel, the rural Alaskan town where the family lives.
“As a lot of people do in Bethel, you know, its something more than just being able out to go have a good time,” Combs told KYUK. “It ends up becoming something that’s done regularly. Unfortunately some of us kind of let that take over us. Jessie herself, I mean she did drink. She didn’t like it when others around her would, but she did herself. It was something she struggled with.” He told KYUK that Ayagalria had been out drinking the night of her seizure.
But even amidst the tragic and senseless loss of his young niece, Combs said baby Faith’s birth has renewed his own faith in God and miracles.
“In the gravest circumstances there’s still hope and there’s faith,” Combs told KYUK. “This whole entire endeavor, you know, really tried our family in faith and hope. There were times that we lost hope – we lost our faith. There were times when we pulled together — it’s been a long journey. What I took out of it was it renewed my faith, my hope you know that miracles do happen. Baby Faith, that’s a physical sign right there.”