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Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the brave mum who gave birth in a coma and waited five months to kiss her bub for the first time

The road to recovery was tough, but her daughter was inspiration not to give up.

By Take 5 team

Joanna Solomou, 40, from Bungarribee, NSW, shares her amazing story:

As the sonographer applied the cold gel to my belly, I squeezed my husband Kevin's hand.
"It's a girl," the sonographer said as a huge grin spread across my face.
But whether our first born was a boy or girl was irrelevant.
"As long as it's healthy," Kevin said.
At 29 weeks - with no weird cravings or morning sickness - I was relishing the joys of pregnancy and Kevin's eyes danced with glee whenever the little wriggler growing inside me jiggled around.
"I can't wait to be your daddy," Kevin, 41, cooed, rubbing my baby bump.
In the run-up to my due date, we excitedly discussed names, agreeing to name her Melanie after my mother.
As days ticked over, I'd been feeling on top of the world until at 32-weeks, I woke up with a bad headache.
"Let me give you a head and neck massage," Kevin kindly offered, but it didn't help.
Next morning, my head was still pounding.
I soldiered on, cleaning the house from top to bottom.
With my husband Kevin. (Image: supplied)
Then Kevin asked if I wanted to go grocery shopping, only, when I went to reply, words failed me and everything went hazy.
"Are you ok love, your eye looks droopy?" Kevin asked, helping me lie down.
Then I blacked out.
When my eyes flickered open, I was in hospital and my thoughts flew to Melanie.
Dazed, Kevin, my mum Melani and my brother Spiro, were peering over me.
"The baby…?" I croaked.
"She's fine," Kevin replied, his face etched with worry.
Over the next few days as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I grasped at fragments of information as doctors explained what had happened to me.
I'd suffered two brain aneurysms that had caused a stroke.
"If I hadn't been home you could've died," Kevin said, choking back the tears.
I'd had risky surgery to stem the brain bleed and for three months I'd been in ICU in a coma.
What's more, during that time I'd given birth to my baby girl.
I struggled to take it all in.
I'd given birth during my coma. (Image: supplied)
"Doctors delivered Melanie by c-section," Kevin explained. "Your heart rate was erratic so they took her out a month early."
Kevin showed me a gallery of pictures he'd taken of Melanie so I could see my baby girl's first days.
There were also confronting images of me in a coma with half a shaved head, my scalp sporting countless stitches and my body hooked up to a web of tubes.
I welled up at the thought of missing my daughter's birth and my heart ached to cuddle her but I couldn't.
The stroke had caused paralysis in my left leg and right arm, impaired vision.
I was unable to walk and my speech was slurred.
Doctors warned I could suffer memory loss, too.
I had a mountain to climb to recover but was lucky to be alive and grateful to have a second chance.
When I was finally wheeled in to meet Melanie, her big, blue eyes met mine.
"Meet your mummy," Kevin said, scooping her up and bringing her close so her mop of dark hair tickled me cheek.
My heart exploded with love but it was bitter-sweet.
This wasn't how I'd imagined my first days of being a mum to be - I wanted to cradle my baby, kiss her, feed her, bath her but my body wouldn't let
me.
When I tried to lift my arms to touch her, they just hung limp by my side.
"I'll get better for you, I promise," I whispered.
I promised my girl I'd get better. (Image: supplied)
When Melanie was five months old, I was able to kiss my gorgeous girl for the first time.
As my lips met with her sweet-smelling, silky soft skin, happy tears tumbled down cheeks.
From then on, I smothered her in kisses - that was all I could do.
When Melanie cried, I couldn't comfort her; when she was hungry, I couldn't feed her so I channelled all my energies into my recovery so that one day I could be the mum I'd always dreamed of being.
After six months in the hospital, I was transferred to rehab and regained enough strength and mobility in my arms to be able to hug Melanie.
"My Melon," I said, calling her by the pet name we'd given her, as her little fingers ran through my hair and she inquisitively pinched my nose and squeezed my lips.
Soon after I was allowed back home with my family where Mum became my carer, helping me as I progressed from using a wheelchair to a walker.
"Twinkle twinkle, my Melon," I sang to Melanie, when I'd improved enough to feed her on my own.
Since then, while I still have a huge recovery ahead, I've made remarkable progress.
Our family has come so far. (Image: supplied)
Kevin's been my rock - supporting and looking after me as well as running round being the best house husband and father, taking Melanie to the park, to school and to swimming lessons.
Now, I have an electric wheelchair and Melanie loves riding around with me.
"This is fun, Mum," my bubbly girl says.
One day she saw one of my honeymoon pictures when I was standing up.
"Mummy, when are you going to stand like that again?" Melanie asked.
"One day," I replied. "Then we can walk to school together."
It's been five years since my stroke and I still remember that vow I made to my gorgeous girl.
I said I'd get better and it's a promise I'll keep.
I missed my own daughter's birth, I missed the first months of her life, I missed out on being the mum I wanted to be, I'm not missing a moment more.
I have so much to live for.

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