The choice that caused a mum and her newborn to die
If a shot at prolonging your life came at the expense of ending your baby's life, what would you do?
If a shot at prolonging your life came at the expense of ending your baby’s life, what would you do? It’s unthinkable and unimaginable. This was the choice that Carrie DeKlyen, a 37-year-old mother of five from Wyoming, Michigan, was faced with.
It all started with headaches that seemed innocuous. Carrie and her husband didn’t have any cause for concern until she started vomiting. Little did they know that the nightmare in store would cause this mum and her newborn to die.
When warning bells started to ring, they went to the doctor. The initial scan detected a mass in Carrie’s brain. Further tests unravelled that Carrie was suffering from a form of cancer, possibly lymphoma. At first, it seemed to be treatable. However, a pathology exam proved otherwise.
The prognosis was bleak. Carrie was suffering from Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. At best, she could live for another five years.
Things had to be done fast and her tumour was soon removed. But less than a month later, the couple were faced with another cruel twist of fate – Carrie’s tumour had returned and she was eight weeks pregnant!
What could they do? Option A was for Carrie to end her pregnancy and undergo chemotherapy. Option B was to keep the baby but Carrie wouldn’t live for long, maybe not even long enough to see her child. Difficult as it was, the couple decided to reject treatment so that their baby could live.
The couple made the difficult choice to go ahead with their sixth child. “We love the Lord. We’re pro-life. We believe that God gave us this baby,” said Carrie’s husband, Nick.
Carrie had discovered her pregnancy barely a month after her first surgery in April. After a second surgery they removed the tumour that had returned in June. Carrie only had months to live. The tumour became inoperable and all that the doctors could do was to relieve her pain by constantly removing the fluid that was accumulating in Carrie’s brain.
In mid-July, Carrie was rushed back to the University of Michigan hospital. The pain was unbearable and Carrie was screaming in acute agony. She was convulsing. And that was the last time she was conscious.
“It was a massive stroke. The fluid had built up so much that the cranium had no place to go,” said Nick. Carrie was then 19 weeks pregnant. Nick gave doctors the green light to do what they had to do to keep the baby alive.
This meant that Carrie would not wake up again and even if she did, she wouldn’t recognise anyone, not even her family. The stroke had caused significant damage in her brain. Carrie was kept alive by a feeding tube and a breathing machine for the next few weeks.
Carrie’s journey was fraught with one hurdle after another. In just two weeks, she suffered from another stroke. Her brain was so swollen that the doctors had no choice but to remove a portion of her skull. She was then 22 weeks pregnant and her baby wasn’t doing too well either.
Her baby wasn’t growing fast enough and she weighed only 378 grams. For a chance of survival, the baby had to weigh at least 500 grams.
Two weeks passed and Nick faced yet another dilemma. He received good and bad news. The good news was that the baby had gained some weight and weighed 625 grams. The bad news was that the baby was not moving.
What were his options? He could either do nothing and hope that the baby would just start moving and continue growing, or he could authorise a c-section. Doing nothing could mean that the baby would die within an hour.
He made the choice and Life Lynn DeKlyen was born at 5:30pm on the 6th of September, 24 weeks into Carrie’s pregnancy. At birth, she weighed 1 pound and 4 ounces. The couple had chosen her name together.
Life was an extremely preterm baby who would never know her mother.
Nick described the experienced as bittersweet, knowing that Carrie was not awake during the birth. Instead, she was dying as her daughter was delivered. Then, Nick felt that his wife had had enough and he told the doctors to remove Carrie from life support.
“I sat by her the whole time; I kind of held her hand and kissed her and told her that she did good. I told her I love you, and I’ll see you in heaven,” said Nick.
A few days after Life was born, early one morning, Carrie opened her eyes then closed them again. She clenched her hands tightly, then slowly stopped breathing. She died before dawn.
Nick had to divide his time between planning a funeral and visiting his newborn who was then in intensive care. He was temporarily residing at the Ronald McDonald House, which was close to the hospital. He would drive back on weekends to visit his other children aged 18, 16, 11, 4 and 2. At that point in time, he was still unsure about his family’s future.
My wife’s gone. I have six kids, three are under the age of 5. I’m just going to focus on my daughter right now, getting her home. As far as what I’m going to do after that, I can’t tell you.
But there was more to the saga. The sequence of events was heart wrenching. Carrie was buried just 6 days after her daughter was born and then, unexpectedly, just 14 days after she was born, Life Lynn left this world to join her mother.
The exact reason for her passing is unknown and this is what Nick had to say on a Facebook post that announced the infant’s death:
It is with great sadness and an absolutely broken heart that I tell you Life Lynn passed away last night. Carrie is now rocking her baby girl. I have no explanation of why this happened, but I do know Jesus loves us and someday we will know why. The grief we feel is almost unbearable. Please be praying for our family.
Inevitably, Nick faced critics who questioned their decision. Nick made his stand clear – that they had put their faith first and continuing the pregnancy was an indication of Carrie’s selflessness.
Carrie had given up her life for her baby. She loved the Lord. She loved her kids. She put anybody in front of her needs. She put her daughter above herself.
In the service held for Carrie, she was remembered as a loving person to those around her. In loving memory of her, was a card that read,
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
*Republished from The Asianparent Singapore