A tiny baby girl gaining strength in an incubator in England is named “Aya” — Arabic for “miracle.” The name is not only beautiful but also descriptive of her birth: She was born two days after her mother was declared brain dead.
Jayne Soliman, a former British figure skating champion, was 41 years old and looked to be in perfect health as she carried the child she and her husband, Mahmoud, had dreamed of having. She was 25 weeks pregnant and working at her job as a skating coach on Wednesday, Jan. 7, when trouble signs appeared, according to a story reported Thursday for TODAY by NBC News’ Dawna Friesen.
“She said she didn't feel well, she had a headache and went home early,” Soliman’s friend, Abi Baldwin, told NBC News.
Once at home, Soliman collapsed. She was rushed to a hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered a massive hemorrhage caused by an aggressive tumor that had been growing undetected in her brain.
Between life and death
Soliman was declared brain dead, Friesen reported. But doctors kept her heart beating on life-support machines in the hope that they could save her unborn baby.
For two days, they fed the tiny fetus large doses of steroids through her mother’s blood vessels to force the baby’s lungs to develop.
On Friday, 48 hours after Soliman died, an obstetrician delivered Aya Jayne Soliman via Caesarean section. Soliman was disconnected from the machines that had kept her body alive, and shortly after, her heart stopped beating.
The infant weighed just over 2 pounds. Although she is in an incubator in a neonatal intensive care unit, Friesen said, “She is tiny, but perfect. And, friends say, will be showered with love.”
Tragedy and triumph
“You can't help but be touched by the tragedy of the situation, that this is a mom that lost her life and a baby that won't know her mother,” Dr. Deborah Harrington, the obstetrician who delivered Aya, told NBC.
In 1989, Soliman became Great Britain’s figure skating champion and was ranked seventh in the world. She continued skating and coaching after her professional career ended. She met her husband while she was working in Dubai two years ago, according to British media reports.
Skater David Phillips, a 48-year-old colleague and friend of Soliman’s, told reporters in England that Soliman was ecstatic at the prospect of becoming a mother.
“To Jayne, becoming a mother was the best thing in the world that could have happened to her,” he is reported to have said. “She was so happy, she had always wanted to be a mum more than anything else. She lived to have a baby girl — that was the one thing she wanted in her life.”
A tearful Baldwin told NBC, “I hope that Jayne's spirit will live on in Aya, and every time Jayne's husband looks at Aya he'll realize how wonderful Jayne was.”
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