Modern medicine often works wonders, but an Australian mom now knows firsthand the true miracle that can come from a mother’s touch.
Kate Ogg was told her newborn son Jamie had died after efforts to resuscitate the premature infant had failed shortly after his birth. But when Kate was given the chance to say goodbye to the apparently lifeless baby, she and her husband, David, found they were instead saying hello to the newest member of their family.
Now 5 months old and healthy, baby Jamie and his twin sister, Emily, appeared on TODAY Friday with their proud parents, who told the amazing tale of what happened to them in a Sydney, Australia, hospital last March.
Kate Ogg told TODAY’s Ann Curry that she knew her babies were in danger when she gave birth just 27 weeks into her pregnancy. Daughter Emily survived the premature birth, but son Jamie languished — and after 20 minutes of trying to get him to breathe, doctors pronounced him dead.
After Kate was told Jamie didn’t make it, nurses placed the baby across Kate’s bare chest so Kate and David could reconcile themselves to his death.
“I wanted to meet him and to hold him and for him to know us,” Kate Ogg told Curry. “If he was on his way out of the world, we wanted for him to know who his parents were and to know that we loved him before he died.”
But a strange thing happened on their way to farewell. After five minutes, Jamie began displaying short, startled movements. As Kate and David looked on, his movements became more pronounced.
Still, the baby’s doctor told the parents any movements were purely reflex, and their son was not alive.
Kate and David nonetheless reveled in their son’s movements, even though they believed he was dead. “We’d resigned ourselves to the fact we were going to lose him; we were just trying to make the most of those last precious moments,” Kate said.
David Ogg told Curry the couple had hoped “for an extra minute or two” with their son, but it eventually extended more than two hours. But no one was more surprised than David and Kate when their seemingly dead son opened his eyes.
“We thought, ‘What a blessing, we get to see his eyes before he passes away,’ ” Kate said. “But they stayed open!”
At that point, the couple began to think their baby might not be dead after all. “I think half of us said [then], ‘What if he actually makes it?’ ” David said. “If he does, this would just be a miracle. The other half was saying, ‘No, he’s been declared dead, this is purely instinct.’ ”
David and Kate were practicing what Australians call “kangaroo care.” Actually, it is widely practiced throughout the world, especially in poorer countries where incubators may not be available for premature babies. An infant is held skin-to-skin to their mother or father, generating heat for the newborn much like a baby kangaroo receives in its mother’s pouch.
Kate had heard of kangaroo care before. “[The baby] comes out of you, and all of a sudden there isn’t the warmth or smell of the mother or the sound of their heartbeat. And so putting him back on my chest was as close to him being inside me where he was safe.”
Jamie continued to come around as he lay across Kate’s chest. He began grabbing at his mother’s finger, as well as his father’s. And when Kate put a dab of breast milk on her finger, Jamie eagerly accepted it.
Kate finally began to believe her baby was actually alive. “We thought, ‘He’s getting stronger — he’s not dead,’ ” she said. But the family wasn’t getting any encouragement from their doctor. While the Oggs urged hospital personnel to summon him, they were repeatedly told what they were seeing was still just reflex from a baby already declared dead.
Kate Ogg told Curry they had to “fib” to get the doctor to return to her bedside. “We kept saying, ‘He’s doing things dead babies don’t do, you might want to come and see this,’ ” she told Curry.
But the skeptical doctor still didn't return. “So David said, ‘Go and tell him we’ve come to terms with the baby’s death, can he just come and explain it.’ That made him come back.”
Kate Ogg told the London Daily Mail the doctor was in disbelief when he arrived back at the bedside. “He got a stethoscope, listened to Jamie’s chest and just kept shaking his head. He said, ‘I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.’ ”
Dr. Lisa Eiland of the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City told NBC News there may actually be a good grounding in science for what seemed like a miracle. “What’s important is the warmth that the mother provides and the stimulation that the baby may have received from hearing the mother’s heartbeat,” Eiland said. “So those are all things that may have helped the baby in terms of going down the path to living as opposed to the path of death.”
For his part, David Ogg gives all the credit to his “very strong, very smart wife” for the family’s now being able to enjoy raising Jamie right along with his sister Emily.
“She instinctively did what she did,” Ogg told The Daily Mail. “If she hadn’t have done that, then Jamie probably wouldn’t be here.”