cawley family

Shelly Cawley and her husband, Jeremy, hold their daughter, Rylan, who helped save her mother's life.

Recently, Shelly Cawley, 23, was rushed to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast to deliver her first child, Rylan. Cawley had a blood clot in her leg, but did not expect it to interfere with a normal delivery. During labor she developed complications that required an emergency Caesarean section.

After the C-section, Shelly’s lungs filled with fluid, and her vital signs spiraled downward. She ended up on an oscillator, but even that was not working.

“We needed her vitals to be stronger so that she could survive being switched to the portable Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) lung transplant system,” said Dana Bush, MD, of Concord Women’s Specialty Care.

Dr. Bush had Shelly’s husband, Jeremy, put his newborn daughter on Shelly and encouraged Rylan to cry.

“The mother-child bond is incredibly strong. I thought it might make a difference if Shelly’s subconscious could hear and feel her daughter,” said Dr. Bush.

It worked. Shelly’s vitals improved enough to prepare her for transport to the ECMO unit at Carolinas Medical Center – a team that uses technologically advanced equipment for heart-lung bypass that supports neonates with respiratory failure. 

Dana Bush, MD

“I never really understood how important that connection between CMC-NorthEast and CMC was until now,” Jeremy said.

After Shelly left CMC, she spent weeks recovering at Carolinas Rehabilitation-NorthEast, a facility near her, making recovery more convenient. And because she was so close to home, her family became a big part of her recovery.

“Support from friends and family is so important in the recovery of our patients,” said Todd Bennett, MPT, FACHE, administrator of Carolinas Rehabilitation-NorthEast. “Providing care close to home and their support network makes a real difference for our patients.”

Learn more about inpatient rehabilitation at Carolinas HealthCare System