The Friday Morning Story
February 21, 2003

* The Rescuing Hug *

Kyrie and Brielle Jackson were born on October 17, 1995, at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester. Each of the twins weighed all of two pounds at birth and were each in their respective incubators, but one was not expected to live. Though Kyrie was putting on a bit of weight in the days following her arrival, her sister, Brielle, was not doing as well. She cried a great deal, leaving her gasping and blue-faced.

Brielle was having a particularly bad day. Newborn Intensive Care Unit nurse Gayle Kasparian tried everything to calm her. She held her. She had her dad hold her. She wrapped her in a blanket. She suctioned her nose.

Nothing worked.

Then she remembered hearing about a procedure done in Europe where twins were placed together in the same incubator;  however, this was against Massachusetts Memorial Hospital's rules. Knowing that the one twin had little time to live, she put Brielle in the incubator with her sister Kyrie contrary to the hospital's rules.

The healthier twin Brielle snuggled up next to Kyrie and put her arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. Almost immediately the smaller baby's heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal. Her blood-oxygen saturation levels, which had been frighteningly low, soared. She began to breathe more easily. The frantic crying stopped and her normal pinkish color quickly returned.

Over the next weeks, her health improved steadily in her new, less lonely quarters. The children survived their rocky beginning and in time went home with their parents. When last heard from, Brielle and Kyrie were healthy preschoolers.

When the dramatic change in Brielle's life became apparent to the hospital staff and then in the community, Chris Christo of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette came to the hospital and took a photograph of the two together. This photograph immediately became famous and has appeared in Life Magazine and Reader's Digest.

Another method used to stabilize preemies is "kangaroo care," a term for prolonged skin-to-skin contact with parents and other caregivers. The technique, so named because of its resemblance to the way pouched animals care for their young, involves skin-to-skin contact between parent and baby.

Often the child, wearing only a diaper and covered by a blanket, is placed against the parent's bare chest. The method is especially effective with premature babies, who are extremely fragile and have almost tissue-thin skin when born. Proponents say the method can have amazing effects: a steadier heart rate, better breathing, greater contentment, deeper sleep.

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