Today, thanks to perseverance and support, a family that stood on the edge of tragedy just a few weeks ago is getting back to what they call their “new normal” as new parents with a changed perspective.
The miracle of giving life would have been enough, but the miracle of Shelly Cawley, 23, of Concord and her healthy baby girl has given her family and friends much more to cherish.
During the critical hours, when her mother’s will to live was failing, baby Rylan is credited with bringing her mother back from the brink of death.
Shelly delivered Rylan by emergency C-section Sept. 5 at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast. Almost immediately after she gave birth, a blood clot in Cawley’s leg shot to her lungs, filling them with fluid.
Physicians were able stabilize her condition. and she was sent to the intensive care unit, unresponsive.
Hours ticked by.
“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,” said her husband, Jeremy Cawley.
“If she was going to have any chance, she was going to have to start doing some of the fighting. So that was kind of where the idea came from to put Rylan on her chest.
“It was really weird to walk in the room. … I’d say there were about six or seven people actively working on Shelly, and then they all took a break,” Jeremy said. “One of them stayed and helped us move the tubes and the wires around.”
Rylan’s cries of indignation from being awakened seemed to help her mother turn the corner toward her own recovery, he said.
Cawley’s story made the news in several states and even attracted the attention of the British media.
Supporters are following their journey on Facebook: Many people they’d never met have heard their story and have been praying for them.
Some of those well-wishers were among the throng that greeted them as Cawley walked out of rehab, many wearing “Team Shelly” T-shirts.
Today, the Cawleys are at home and, with help from family and friends, are taking care of their newborn while Shelly gains strength and continues speech and occupational therapy.
She has been able to return to church and even spend a few hours shopping at Hanes Mall as Rylan’s big brother, Isaac, 8, showed off the newest member of the family.
As her parents predictably say, Rylan is perfect.
Besides close family and friends, there are many others to thank, Jeremy said.
“Our community is blessed. The nurses we ran into at NorthEast, at (CMC) Main (in Charlotte) and at the rehab facility were some of the most compassionate, loving people,” said Jeremy.
“They all dropped their personal lives to come to Shelly’s rescue. And the way they worked as a team to support Shelly, Rylan and me was just amazing.
“We go to Harvest Community Church in Concord, and they’ve been unbelievable and still want to do more,” Jeremy said. “And there are so many churches that have come together outside of our church. We’re so blessed to be part of that.”
Jeremy said his family of co-workers at the Cannon Memorial YMCA have also provided extremely strong support by filling in while he is out of work, visiting often and sending many care packages, cards and messages.
Right now, he said, the family members have to accept the roles they’re in. But they are already talking about how they can help support the hospital and the compassionate care it delivers to others.
“Shelly is a senior at Rowan-Cabarrus (Community) College, where she is a nursing student, so her goal is to get her brain back in shape to finish up,” Jeremy said. “She has talked a lot about how she can’t wait to get the opportunity to really pay it forward now.
“The whole thing has been surreal, but now it’s surreal for different reasons,” he said. “To go from the nightmare we were in to the dream that we are now is just amazing.
“We keep getting emails and messages from people all over to say how much Shelly’s story has given them hope. There have been many who have reached out to me to tell me how strong I’ve been, although a lot of times I haven’t felt very strong,” he said.
“God has given us this stage for some reason, and we’re going to keep telling our story, and keep telling people how thankful we are to be able to tell our story.”