This mom was in a coma. Then her newborn baby cried. What happened next was beyond amazing.
CONCORD, North Carolina, September 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Shelly Cawley, a nursing student, and husband Jeremy Cawley, a YMCA director, weren't trying to get pregnant, but they weren't trying not to.
When Shelly found out she was pregnant with their first child, she and husband Jeremy were very excited. "Having a child with the person you love is such a big deal," Shelly said.
The couple planned a natural delivery, and they attended weekly classes on natural childbirth. "We knew what we were going to do," Shelly explained, but "then, all of the sudden that plan was taken away from me."
At eight months' gestation, doctors discovered a blood clot in Shelly's leg, so they began giving Shelly blood thinners.
Eventually, Shelly's water broke, and Jeremy took her to the hospital. But labor did not progress.
Shelly had preeclampsia, a disorder characterized by high blood pressure and too much protein in the urine. Preeclampsia, if untreated, can lead to liver and kidney dysfunction, and fluid in the lungs. Shelly was also diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening condition involving the rupture of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes, and a low platelet count.
Doctors told Shelly her baby had to be delivered immediately by emergency C-section.
Going in for an emergency delivery, Shelly had "a premonition." "I was telling the doctors that I was scared I wasn't going to wake up," she said.
The C-section was successful, and Rylan Grace Cawley was born. But Shelly failed to recover. As Jeremy was holding his newborn daughter, doctors informed him that Shelly's lungs were filling with fluid and she was having trouble breathing on her own.
Eventually, Shelly fell into a coma. Physicians later discovered that the baby inside her womb had been holding Shelly's blood clot in place and, when Rylan was delivered, the clot migrated to Shelly's lung, causing a pulmonary embolism.
Shelly's blood pressure was 60/40, and her heart rate was over 180 beats a minute. She was hooked up to what doctors called "the last-chance ventilator," pumping air into her lungs so violently that it rattled her hospital bed, husband Jeremy said.
Doctors were convinced they could only wait and see if Shelly would wake up from the coma. "The doctors had done all they could and it was clear, they absolutely thought they were losing her at this point," Jeremy said.
That was when the doctors decided to bring the family together. "We didn't know how she was going to make it," nurse Ashley Manus told the Washington Post.
The medical staff at Carolinas HealthCare System Northeast use the "skin-to-skin" method to strengthen the mother-baby bond. The physical touch stimulates the newborn's brain development, stabilizes heart rate, and helps maintain body temperature. Nurse Manus suggested to lay little Rylan on Shelly's chest. "If that was going to be it for her, we wanted to be able to tell the baby: 'Your mom held you,'" she reasoned.
"Maybe somewhere in Shelly's subconscious, she would hear her baby was calling out to her," Manus said. "We just thought, it can't hurt, [so we] might as well give it a try."
Nurses brought little newborn Rylan into Shelly's room. "I was hoping somewhere deep down, Shelly was still there and could feel her baby, hear her baby and her mother's instincts would come out," Manus anticipated.
Jeremy explained that the "hope was that if Shelly could smell the baby, feel the baby, hear the baby – even in the coma – it would give her a reason to fight. They needed her to start to fight."
They put the newborn on her mother's chest, but tiny Rylan went right to sleep. "We pinched Rylan and tickled her a little bit so that Shelly would hear her cry," Jeremy shared.
And then, little Rylan – on her mommy's chest – cried.
As soon as her baby cried, Shelly's vitals jumped.
Jeremy said Rylan made the difference in saving her mother's life. "All the doctors said there's no way they would have gotten to that point if Shelly hadn't made it through [that] night," he said.
Doctors kept Shelly in her coma so that she could get the care she needed, including 21 units of blood, ventilators, and a heart-and-lung bypass machine. As the week-long ordeal continued, Jeremy put Rylan in a t-shirt of Shelly's, so Rylan could smell her mother. He even learned how to pump his wife's breast milk. "It was such an emotional and spiritual journey for our family while she was gone," Jeremy said. "God's hand was all over everything."
Finally, Shelly awakened. Jeremy first asked her "if she knew who I was..., if she knew my name – and with the most breathy voice she said my name," Jeremy Cawley said. "It was just such a huge thing."
Then, Jeremy brought one-week-old Rylan in to her mother. Shelly "still couldn't move," Jeremy explained, "but you could see her eyes – as soon as I brought in Rylan, her eyes locked on Rylan. She just stared at her. And I laid Rylan on her chest."
As the Washington Post reports, Jeremy brushed the hair from Shelly's forehead and asked her a question: "Are you happy?"
Shelly nodded yes.
"I've got stories to tell you," he said.