Shelly Cawley wasn’t waking up. The then 23-year-old from Concord, North Carolina, had just had an emergency C-section and doctors had to put her under. After several hours, they were getting worried that she hadn’t woken up.
Her husband, Jeremy Cawley, 35, remembers feeling helpless standing at his wife’s bedside in the intensive care unit.
“The doctors had done all they could and it was clear, they absolutely thought they were losing her at this point,” he tells PEOPLE.
Baby Rylan was doing fine, resting comfortably a few floors away in the same hospital. Until Ashley Manus, a nurse at Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast had an idea.
“We’re a big proponent of skin-to-skin [contact]. We believe it has great benefits for the mom and the baby, and we just thought it can’t hurt, might as well give it a try,” she says.
Doctors told Jeremy it was up to his wife to fight, and the nurses were convinced if Shelly heard Rylan cry, she’d come around.
But the baby was so at peace on her mom’s chest she didn’t let out a peep. Instead, she fell asleep.
“We tickled her, we even pinched her. It took 10 minutes and then she let out a wail,” Jeremy tells PEOPLE.
Incredibly, it worked.
“We could see a spike in her vitals on the monitor. We knew that somewhere in there she was hearing her baby. Rylan saved her mom’s life,” Manus says.
Jeremy chokes up remembering the moment. “It was the crying that got Shelly going again, got her fighting again. I got my wife back,” he says.
It would be another week before Shelly came out of the coma completely and could hold her baby for the first time. Both mom and baby were fine, with no complications from the ordeal.
Watch the video HERE.