I came across this article from Reader’s Digest Feb 2012 by Helen Signy: A Baby Who Was Loved Back To Life. Here’s a little background story: Jamie and Emily were twins born about 10 weeks premature, by the couple David and Kate. During the birth of the twins, Emily came out crying while Jamie was white and silent, which shouldn’t be the case of a newborn. Despite efforts from the doctors, Jamie wasn’t breathing by himself and was said to be gone. The following is an excerpt from the article:
David clasped his wife and baby tight as Kate gently unwrapped the blanket that enveloped Jamie. She didn’t want him covered up while he slipped away. Following her instinct, she placed his fragile, naked body on the warm skin of her chest. She wanted to feel what he felt like and to get to know him. She gently sobbed. He was hers and his future had been snatched from her. She ached to get him back.
As Kate and David struggled to come to terms with what was happening, Kate cuddled Jamie. For her, it was a simple act of bonding. And for David, it was a natural indication of Kate’s warm and relaxed character – and one of the reasons he loved her so deeply.
Years before, when the pair had undertaken an epic 800-kilometre walk through Spain, David could remember, even at their lowest ebb, they’d always managed to summon new reserves of strength by pausing and taking a few moments for a loving embrace. To this day, when David has a headache, Kate would fix it by wrapping her arms around him and kissing his eyelids.
Now, without realizing it, Kate’s skin-to-skin contact was replicating a powerful ancient ritual and a practice now encouraged in many maternity hospitals around the world. Placing newborn babies on their mother’s skin, especially if they are premature, is called “kangaroo mother care“. And it has been proven by medical science to boost their chances of survival. Just like a joey develops in the pouch, it’s thought that a mother’s chest provides the closest approximation to the environment of the womb.
What happened next neither Kate nor David could believe. The newborn opened his eyes. Then he appeared to lift his head and grab his father’s finger. Again David went rushing off to find staff to come and check Jamie.
When the doctor returned to the room with a nurse, he pulled up two chairs and began to explain to the couple that they weren’t seeing what they though they were. “But look!” said Kate, who had moistened her finger with colostrum from her breast. “He’s licking my finger.”
As the doctor lifted Jamie off Kate’s chest, the newborn startled and tried to cry. The doctor lay him on the bed and listened to his chest and, in disbelief, asked the nurse to listen, too. Now, his lungs were inflated, he was breathing unaided, and he had regained full colour.
I didn’t know there’s a medical term for it and was proven (scientifically) to help the premature babies survive until I read the article. Though I did come across it before in one of the episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Invest in Love.
“Our bodies crave touch,” says Matt Hertenstein, associate professor of psychology at DePauw University in the US and a world expert on the power of touch. “It’s been shown to positively impact our physiology, immune system, stress response and even our brain.”
Everybody does yearn touch, a shoulder massage, a simple pat on the shoulder or a squeeze in the hand goes a long way in improving our abilities to respond to difficult situations.
This story brought tears to my eyes, and also serve as a reminder for me.
I was introduced to a commencement speech by Robert Sapolsky to Stanford graduates during my animal behavioral module
Near the end of the commencement speech after his lesson on the uniqueness of the human mind, he brought the speech to a closure with an idea of inspiring graduates to bring change to the world:
“when you wised up enough, there is a very clear conclusion you have to reach after, which is, at the end of the day, it’s really impossible for one person to make a difference, and thus, the more clearly, absolutely, radically, irrevocably, unchangeably clear is that, it is impossible for you to make a difference, to make the world better, the more you must”
We are educated, we are fortunate to receive the education and there is nobody out there who is in a better position than us to sustain this contradiction in life, and use it as a moral imperative.
And with these two stories, it once again reminds me of the reason why I’m still in science, though not pretty good at it, but still trying.