A year ago, baby Rylan was born completely healthy via emergency C-section. Her mother Shelly Cawley, however, developed a blood clot during the surgery. The clot moved from her legs to her lungs, causing them to fill with fluid. Doctors were able to stabilize her, but the new mom was unresponsive. She slipped into a coma.
“As the doctors explained it to us, they were not seeing any fight out of Shelly, and they were doing all the work (of staying alive) for her,” her husband Jeremy told the Charlotte Observer. “If she was going to have any chance, she was going to have to start doing some of the fighting.”
After a week had gone by, Cawley’s family and medical team had little hope of her waking up. Then, nurse Ashely Manus had an idea.
“We knew skin to skin contact is very beneficial to an infant, so we thought why not try it for a mom,” Manus to WCNC. “Because the baby was already thriving. She was doing great.”
Placed skin to skin on her mother, baby Rylan went right to sleep. But the medical staff wanted her to cry, hoping Cawley would hear her. So they began tickling her and trying to get her to make noise. Eventually, the content little girl cried out, and Cawley reacted.
“We saw the heart monitor flash to life,” said Jeremy Cawley. “The screaming had brought Shelly back into the fight.”
A week later Cawley was completely out of the coma. She said she remembers being on the stretcher and telling the doctors she was afraid she wasn’t going to wake up after the C-section. But, thanks to her daughter, she’s now home and healthy.
Gil Weiss, MD, an OB/GYN, told Yahoo News that studies have shown comatose patients’ brains do in fact react to familiar sounds such as voices of loved ones. However, since Cawley hadn’t met Rylan before, or heard her cry, she didn’t fit into the category of familiar.
“Throughout thousands of years, this is the way babies were taken care of by mom – mothers held their babies close,” said Weiss. “There may be some primal reflex deep in the brain that we don’t know about or a part of the brain that responds even without higher level function. […] There is a bond between mom and baby that we can’t always explain scientifically. That’s the beauty of the mother-child connection.”
Now, a year later, as the family celebrated Rylan’s first birthday, Cawley shared this photo and message on Facebook:
As the night comes to a close, I reflect on my day and how different it was than at the same time a year ago. What a difference a year makes! Last year I was fighting for my life, and this year I have a 1 year old who is thriving, and I am back in nursing school doing what I love. Can’t wait to discover what God has planned for my life, and to just enjoy the ride on the way there!”