The Birth of a Child
For most parents, the birth of a first child is a magical moment, filled with joy, friends, and family. The day Shelly Cawley gave birth to her baby should have been one of the best days of her life. Unfortunately, it would wind up being the worst as she and her husband faced a life-threatening reality that would tear their world apart.
You won’t believe this story.
An Unexpected Surprise
For Shelly and her husband Jeremy, a baby was not exactly in the plan. Living in Concord, North Carolina, Shelly was working towards becoming a nurse and her husband was a director for the YMCA. However, life was about to take an unexpected turn when Shelly discovered she was pregnant.
Despite not planning the pregnancy, both Shelly and Jeremy were over the moon with excitement. They immediately began making the proper preparations, such as putting money aside, purchasing supplies and even attending weekly birthing classes. When their child came, they wanted to be 100% ready.
Natural Birth Plans Thwarted
Shelly and Jeremy were determined to do a natural birth without the use of medications or unnecessary procedures. Sadly, their plan was not meant to be. At eight months, Shelly began to experience complications in her pregnancy which would lead to her developing a blood clot in her leg.
To say Shelly was devastated would be an understatement.
“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 Washington Post.
From Bad to Worse
Hoping to control the clot, Shelly was put on blood thinners with the hopes it would break up. However, time was not on the young mother’s side as her water broke ahead of schedule. Realizing the danger, Jeremy rushed his wife to the Carolina’s Medical Center-NorthEast.
Despite the stress, both parents were excited to meet their child.
Unfortunately, after Shelly was admitted to the hospital the pregnancy did not progress as it should. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia, as well as a liver disease, which can be life-threatening. On top of that, her blood pressure was through the roof.
Could things get any worse for this young couple?
With Shelly’s life hanging on a thread, the doctors rushed her to the operating room to perform an emergency C-section. Realizing things were going very wrong, Shelly began to worry.
Not only for the life of her baby but for herself as well.
Scared and Confused
Shelly revealed to The Washington Post, “I was telling the doctors that I was scared I wasn’t going to wake up. 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.”
Thankfully, Shelly and Jeremy’s daughter, Rylan, was delivered safely on September 4, 2014, weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces. Even better, she was completely healthy. There were no complications whatsoever.
Unfortunately, for Shelly things were not looking good.
Whisked Away Without a Word
Jeremy was given Rylan to hold while the doctors rushed away with Shelly. At this point, Jeremy didn’t even realize his wife was in trouble. “They just told me that Shelly was going to be in recovery, and it would be a little bit before she reunited with us.”
A Dire Situation
Sadly, the reality of the situation was quite grim. Fluid had begun to fill her lungs and her blood clot had broken free and moved into her respiratory system resulting in a fatal pulmonary embolism.
And this wasn’t even the worst of it.
Out of the Frying Pan and into the…
As time passed, Shelly’s blood pressure fell dramatically, her heart rate skyrocketed and she was put on a ventilator to breathe. This all resulted in the new mom slipping into a coma. The doctors knew the options were limited and many were afraid she would not survive.
All Hope in the Ventilator
The doctors hoped that the ventilator would help stabilize Shelly’s condition and get her to a place where she could breathe on her own again. Sadly, it didn’t seem to work and the medical team scrambled to come up with new ideas to try.
One Last Hope
In a last-ditch effort, the medical team decided to try skin-on-skin contact with Shelly’s daughter Rylan. Placing the baby on Shelly’s chest, she was prompted to cry. The hope was that Shelly would hear her and begin to fight to live.
Unfortunately, no one knew if it would actually work, so a waiting game began with the hopes that she would somehow start to turn around.
Hoping for the Best, Expecting the Worst
“We didn’t know how she was going to make it and she had had no interaction with her child,” nurse Ashley Manus said to The Washington Post. “If that was going to be it for her, we wanted to be able to tell the baby, ‘Your mom held you.’”
A Change in Vital Signs
Thankfully, the skin-to-skin contact with Rylan began to work and doctors noticed a significant change in her vital signs. Refusing to give up on his wife, Jeremy made to sure Rylan and Shelly spent time together every single day.
After a week of therapy…something amazing happened.
Shelly finally woke up. She recalls the experience as one that was weird, to say the least.
“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.”
Nurse Shelly Reporting for Duty
It would be only a year later that Shelly would graduate from nursing school and go back to the very place her life was saved to work. She admits that having a near-death experience changed her perspective on both work and life.
Live Your Best 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.”