The birth of a first child is a joyful event for most parents, packed with excitement, friends, and relatives. Shelly Cawley’s baby’s birth should have been one of the happiest days of her life.
Unfortunately, it would turn out to be the worst, as she and her husband were confronted with a life-threatening fact that would wipe away their happiness.
Shelly and her husband Jeremy had no definite plans of having a child. Shelly was studying to be a nurse in Concord, North Carolina, and her husband worked as a director for the YMCA. They had a pretty normal but content life.
Shelly’s life, however, was about to take an unexpected turn when she realised she was pregnant.
Despite the fact that the pregnancy had not been planned, Shelly and Jeremy were ecstatic. They began making necessary preparations right away. They started putting money aside, purchasing supplies and even started attending weekly birthing classes.
They wanted to be completely prepared when their child arrived in this world.
Shelly and Jeremy were adamant about having a natural birth, free of medicines and unneeded procedures. Unfortunately, their plan did not work out.
Shelly began to have pregnancy difficulties at eight months. A blood clot started to form in her thigh. It would be an understatement to say Shelly was devastated.
Shelly was heartbroken. It felt like her choices were taken away from her. The couple were so happy making future plans for the arrival of their child and they felt cheated on.
“Having a child with the person you love is such a big deal. I was looking forward to getting to experience that… Then all of [a] sudden, that plan was taken away from me,” Shelly told the media.
Shelly was put on blood thinners in the hopes that it would break up and control the clot. But fate has its own plans. Her water broke ahead of the predicted date. Jeremy was fast to react. He knew his wife was in danger.
He hurried her to Carolina’s Medical Center-NorthEast. Despite their anxiety, both parents were still looking forward to meeting their child.
Shelly was immediately admitted on reaching the hospital. Nothing was going as planned for the couple. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia as well as a potentially fatal liver condition. Her blood pressure was also through the roof.
Looks like the young couple’s situation was getting worse.
Shelly’s life was hanging in the balance. The doctors hurried her to the operating room for an emergency C-section. Shelly became concerned when she realised things were going horribly wrong.
Not just her baby’s life was in danger but even her life was hanging by a thread.
Shelly was afraid that after the surgeries she wouldn’t wake up. This was a scary feeling. With her and her baby’s life in danger, Shelly was under a lot of stress.
“To this day, I don’t know why I had that feeling. I guess it was some sort of sense I had that something was going to go wrong – a premonition – because they had treated everything throughout my pregnancy just fine,” recalled Shelly.
Rylan, Shelly and Jeremy’s daughter, was safely delivered on September 4, 2014, weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces. Even better, she was in perfect health. There were no difficulties at all.
Unfortunately, things were not looking positive for Shelly.
The newborn baby, Rylan, was given to Jeremy to hold. She was so little and precious. Jeremy had no idea his wife’s life was in peril at this time.
Jeremy told the media, “They just told me that Shelly was going to be in recovery, and it would be a little bit before she reunited with us.”
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation was extremely bleak. Her lungs were filling with fluid, and a blood clot had broken free and migrated into her respiratory system, resulting in a deadly pulmonary embolism.
And things had just started to get worse.
Things were not looking good for Shelly at all. Shelly’s blood pressure dropped drastically over time, her heart rate increased, and she was placed on a ventilator to breathe.
As a result of all of this, the new mother fell into a coma. The doctors were aware that her alternatives were limited, and many were concerned that she might not live.
The attending doctors hoped that the ventilator would help stabilise Shelly’s condition. They hoped that it would make her condition a little better from where she can breathe on her own again.
Unfortunately, it did not appear to work, and the medical team was scrambling to come up with alternative ideas to test.
At this point, they were all out of ideas. Except one. Someone in the team came up with an idea. It was far-fetched, to say the least. It was definitely one without scientific validation.
They have heard of how skin-to-skin contact have worked in some cases. But they were very sceptical.
The medical team finally decided to try skin-on-skin contact with Shelly’s daughter Rylan. It was their last-ditch effort. The infant began to cry after placing her on Shelly’s chest. The hope was that Shelly would hear her and start fighting for her life.
Unfortunately, no one knew if it would truly work.
It was a waiting game that started in the hopes that Shelly would begin to improve. Nurse Ashley Manus told the media, “We didn’t know how she was going to make it and she had had no interaction with her child.”
“If that was going to be it for her, we wanted to be able to tell the baby, ‘Your mom held you.’”
And then the miracle happened. Fortunately, the skin-to-skin contact with Rylan started to work, and doctors detected a dramatic shift in her vital signs. Jeremy, unable to give up on his wife, made sure Rylan and Shelly spent time together every day.
A week passed by like this and then something extraordinary happened.
Shelly finally came out of the coma. On asking if she felt anything during that time, she said that the whole experience was strange.
“It was a weird feeling – like I was between a dream and reality. But I do remember as clear as day looking at her face, how beautiful she was. I don’t think I knew at the time I had been asleep for a week. But it was my first time meeting my daughter. I was so overwhelmed.”
Shelly would graduate from nursing school a year later and return to the very place where her life had been saved to work. She confesses that having a near-death experience changed her outlook on work and life.
“It hits me a lot. I see patients come in the emergency department, some of them critical and on the edge of life and death, and I know that was me. You have to take a step back and pray for them and for their family and then live the best life you can.”