A Bethel woman who had a baby while in a coma, then passed away was laid to rest over the weekend. Jessie Ayagalria was clinically brain dead for most of her pregnancy. Her baby, Faith, was born on July 8th and is now being raised by family in Bethel.
Jessie Ayagalria’s uncle, Henry Combs describes her as a tomboy who loved making art and raising dogs. He says she also had a darker side though, which included abusing alcohol, and which he says sent her hospital one night in late January.
“It was a Sunday, it was in the evening. Jessie had been gone for a while, out drinking for a while. I was out at church, and I had come home kinda late in the evening. She wasn’t feeling well. Then she ended up having the seizures and then we called 9-1-1,” Combs said.
The 29-year-old was flown to Anchorage where doctors at Alaska Native Medical Center said she’d suffered cardiac arrest. She had no brain wave activity. They also discovered she was 12 weeks pregnant.
“There wasn’t much hope at first. Most of the doctor’s at ANMC said that she couldn’t carry the baby, that it wouldn’t work out,” Combs said.
But Combs says one doctor said it was possible. Family members agreed to put her on life support. The baby was born by C-section at 35 weeks on July 8th. They named her Faith.
Amy Bee says her cousin stayed strong for her baby.
“We all knew as soon as the baby was born … we were just waiting for Jessie to pass. And it was three days after she had her baby, I got the phone call that she passed away,” Bee said.
The community has rallied around the family. Bee and her husband Behrend Swope held a yard sale over the weekend to raise money for Faith’s care.
“We’re just putting on a sale here to benefit her. Hoping to help contribute to the family and help contribute to the family and help them afford the necessities for Faith as she’s in her early days here,” Swope said.
The baby’s aunt, Krissy Medina, is caring for Faith. She says the baby is doing well.
“She’s eating a lot more. She’s growing. She makes me laugh everyday. Seems like it’s like my sister being born again. Her whole face looks like her, especially her nose and her cheeks,” Medina said.
Combs says the family’s sadness has been eased by the baby that resembles her mom. He says he’s sharing their story because he hopes it will help others struggling with alcohol avoid the fate of his niece.
“As a lot of people do in Bethel you know its something more than just being able to go out to have a good time. It ends up becoming something that’s done regularly. Unfortunately some of us kind of let that take over us. Jessie herself, I mean she did drink. She didn’t like it when others around her would, but she did herself. It was something she struggled with,” Combs said.
But Combs says despite the tragedy that his family has experienced they have not lost their faith.
“In the gravest circumstances there’s still hope and there’s faith. This whole entire endeavor you know really tried our family in faith and hope. There were times that we lost hope – we lost our faith. There were times when we pulled together — it’s been a long journey. What I took out of it was it renewed my faith, my hope you know that miracles do happen. Baby Faith, that’s a physical sign right there,” Combs said.
Faith’s mother was laid to rest in Bethel this passed weekend. Donations can be made to an account set up for the baby and her family at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union (Acc.#:1825307, checking). The family has also set up a page at ‘gofundme.com” and the yard sale to raise funds for the family is continuing this coming weekend. You can learn more about what’s being done for baby Faith at KYUK.org.