Doctors gave this twenty oz baby for dead, but its life was saved with a cuddle. It was to be the one and only cuddle Carolyn Isbister would have with her tiny, premature daughter.
Rachael had been born minutes before – weighing a mere 20oz – and had only minutes to live. Her heart was beating once every ten seconds and she was not breathing. As doctors gave up, Miss Isbister lifted her baby out of her hospital blanket and placed her on her chest. It was this hug that kickstarted Rachael’s heart.
Carolyn later said, “I didn’t want her to die being cold. So I lifted her out of her blanket and put her against my skin to warm her up. Her feet were so cold.
“It was the only cuddle I was going to have with her, so I wanted to remember the moment.” Then something remarkable happened. The warmth of her mother’s skin kickstarted Rachael’s heart into beating properly, which allowed her to take little breaths of her own.
Miss Isbister said: “We couldn’t believe it – and neither could the doctors. She let out a tiny cry.”
“The doctors came in and said there was still no hope – but I wasn’t letting go of her. We had her blessed by the hospital chaplain, and waited for her to slip away.”
“But she still hung on. And then amazingly the pink colour began to return to her cheeks.”
“She literally was turning from grey to pink before our eyes, and she began to warm up too.”
Four months later, Rachael was allowed home weighing 8lb – the same as a newborn baby – and she has a healthy appetite.
Miss Isbister, a 36-year- old chemist from West Lothian , said, “Rachael has been such a little fighter – it is a miracle that she is here at all. When she was born the doctors told us that she would die within 20 minutes. But that one precious cuddle saved her life. I’ll never forget it.”
Miss Isbister and her partner David Elliott, 35, an electronics engineer, were thrilled when she became pregnant. At the 20-week scan at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, doctors told them she was carrying a girl and they decided to name her Rachael. But at 24 weeks a womb infection led to premature labour. Miss Isbister, who also has two children Samuel, 10, and Kirsten, eight, from a previous marriage, said: “We were terrified we were going to lose her. I had suffered three miscarriages before, so we didn’t think there was much hope.” When Rachael was born she was grey and lifeless.”
“The doctor just took one look at her and said no,” said Miss Isbister.
“They didn’t even try to help her with her breathing as they said it would just prolong her dying. Everyone just gave up on her.”
Ian Laing, a consultant neonatologist at the hospital, said: “All the signs were that the little one was not going to make it and we took the decision to let mum have a cuddle as it was all we could do. Two hours later the wee thing was crying. This is indeed a miracle baby and I have seen nothing like it in my 27 years of practice. I have not the slightest doubt that mother’s love saved her daughter.”
Credits: This story was first published in December 2007. You can find more details and pictures here.