Carrie DeKlyen had an aggressive form of brain cancer, when she and her husband Nick DeKlyen found out she was 8 weeks pregnant. The couple who lives strongly by their Christian faith, was given two options. They could try to prolong Carrie's life through chemotherapy, but that meant ending her pregnancy. Or they could keep the baby, but Carrie would not live long enough to see the child. They chose to stand on their faith and refused chemotherapy,"That's what she wanted," Nick said. "We love the Lord. We're pro-life. We believe that God gave us this baby."
37-year-old Carrie DeKlyen, who was a mother of five from Wyoming, Michigan, had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. If lucky, she could live for five more years.
The tumor was taken out during a surgery in April, her husband, Nick DeKlyen, said. Not even a month later, the couple received two pieces of shocking news. Carrie's tumor was back - and she was eight weeks pregnant.
They had two options. They could try to prolong Carrie's life through chemotherapy, but that meant ending her pregnancy. Or they could keep the baby, but Carrie would not live long enough to see the child.
It was a difficult but obvious choice for the DeKlyens, who live strongly by their faith. After a second surgery to remove the tumor that came back, the couple went home, knowing full well that Carrie had only months left. Nick said his wife needed to live 34 more weeks.
"That's what she wanted," Nick said. "We love the Lord. We're pro-life. We believe that God gave us this baby."
By the end of June, the tumor was back again, but this time, it was inoperable. Doctors told the DeKlyens that all they could do was keep taking out the fluid accumulating in Carrie's brain to relieve the pain, Nick said.
Carrie was rushed back to the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor by mid-July. She was screaming in pain and was convulsing. That was the last time she was conscious.
"They said that she had a massive stroke," Nick said. "They said the fluid built up so much the cranium had no place to go."
Carrie was 19 weeks pregnant by then. Nick said doctors told him they would do what they could to keep the child growing. But Carrie would probably not wake up again, and if she did, she wouldn't recognize her family. She had suffered significant brain damage from the stroke. For the next several weeks, a feeding tube and a breathing machine would keep the mother and her child alive.
Two weeks later, another stroke, Nick said. Carrie's brain was so swollen that doctors had to remove her skull.
By the time Carrie was 22 weeks pregnant, her baby's growth had slowed; she weighed only 378 grams, or eight-tenths of pound. To survive birth, the baby had to be at least 500 grams, just a little more than a pound, Nick said.
Another two weeks went by. Good news came: The baby weighed 625 grams. The bad news was the baby was not moving.
Nick said he was given two options. He could do nothing and hope the baby starts moving and continues growing. But doing nothing meant his child could die within an hour. Or he could authorize a Caesarean section and get the baby out. Nick chose the latter option.
His daughter, Life Lynn DeKlyen, was born at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. She weighed 1 pound 4 ounces. Nick said his wife and he came up with her daughter's name before Carrie got sick.
"It was kind of bittersweet because my wife's not awake. She's going to pass away," Nick said. "After that, I went to the surgeon and said my wife had enough. She's gone through so much pain these last five months."
Carrie DeKlyen lived briefly after doctors unhooked her life support.
"I sat by her the whole time. I kind of held her hand and kissing her, telling her that she did good," Nick said. "I told her, 'I love you, and I'll see you in heaven.' "
Early on Friday morning, Nick said Carrie opened her eyes, then closed them again. She clenched her hands tightly, then slowly, she stopped breathing. Carrie died at 4:30 a.m.
Now, four days after his daughter was born and two days after his wife died, Nick is dividing his time between planning a funeral and visiting his newborn, who has to remain in intensive care for several weeks. Nick lives temporarily in the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor, just a short walk from the hospital. On weekends, he drives two hours back to Wyoming to visit his other children, ages 18, 16, 11, 4 and 2.
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