Oklahoma cancer patient trades her life so her baby could survive

BY SONYA COLBERG scolberg@opubco.com Published: October 16, 2011

“The cancer was such that it had crossed one of her eyes and it had destroyed the muscle behind her eye. It paralyzed her throat. When she did talk, she was hard to understand. As far as her mind, she was there,” Ray Phillips said.

But Crimm's improvement was short-lived. She often fell unconscious and hadn't been able to sign Dottie's birth certificate. She hadn't named the father so Phillips gained guardianship because she frequently told him that if she didn't survive, she wanted him and his wife to raise the baby with the four children they already had at home.

“I think she's a miracle. I just want to do right by her and do what Stacie asked,” Jennifer Phillips said.

A nurse's determination

On Sept. 8, Crimm stopped breathing and once again was resuscitated. Hospital doctors and nurses warned the family that she likely was dying.

“Her heart had stopped. She quit breathing. She was technically dead, and then they brought her back,” said Ray Phillips.

But she had not yet held the baby whose life she had chosen above her own.

She'd never touched the golden fluff of fuzz framing her baby Dottie's angelic face. Never counted those fingers as tiny and perfect as a doll's. Never looked into those dark blue eyes.

But a quiet yet determined nurse and mother, Agi Beo, couldn't bear to think of Crimm's emotional pain.

“She was in the last stage with the brain tumor. And she never got to see the baby,” Beo said.

“This baby was everything she had in this world.”

With Crimm's death imminent, Beo worked with nurse Jetsy Jacob to step up their questioning of the family, healthcare professionals and disease experts about Crimm's condition, including her staph infection. They talked to Neoflight, the medical center's neonatal transport team, about using a capsule-like ICU to safely move Dottie.

When his sister regained consciousness later that day, Phillips asked what she thought about possibly seeing Dottie. Crimm's eyes popped open and she raised her hands as if to ask where was her child.

Nurses wheeled Dottie down the hallway to her mother moments later. Phillips said doctors, nurses and others clad in protective gear gathered as nurses carefully lifted the baby from the incubator under her mother's watchful eye.

They placed the baby on her mother's chest. Mother and child gazed into each other's eyes for several minutes. She smiled at the baby who at last lay in her arms.

No one said a word. No one had a dry eye.

Stacie Crimm died three days later.

Last week, Ray Phillips fulfilled his last promise to his sister. Healthy, 5-pound Dottie went home to live with Ray and Jennifer Phillips and her four new siblings.