California newlyweds were elated when they found out they would be first-time parents a few months ago. However, during the second trimester, a grim diagnosis changed everything when a massive, benign brain tumor was found in 39-year-old Melissa Carleton, who had a seizure and has been comatose since March 11. Despite her medical condition, Carleton and husband, 32-year-old Brian Lande, welcomed healthy baby boy West Nathaniel Lande via C-section on Thursday.
"He's got his mom's nose and his mom's ears and he's opening his eyes and looking around already," said a relieved Lande to KTVU. Although West had a healthy arrival weighing 5 lbs. and 9 oz., the birth has left Lande with mixed feelings. "As happy as I am to meet my son, it is incredibly painful for Melissa not to be awake with me for this," he said.
Carleton was first admitted to the hospital 10 weeks ago to undergo surgery for her brain tumor. Originally, the mom-to-be, who is a family therapist, wanted to put off brain surgery until after her son was born, but when Carleton had a seizure in March, she was sent to the operating room. The site of the tumor, KTVU reported, is located in the area of the brain that controls wakefulness, which means she may still be aware of her surroundings.
"She was more awake than she has been. She reached for Brian and puckered her lips so she could kiss him,” Lande told The Fresno Bee. He has been by her side since her coma and has celebrated small victories such as eye movement, eye openings, and even a grin. Carleton’s parents, John and Lawanna Farrell, have praised Lande’s undying support for their daughter and are thrilled West has arrived. "He has taken care of our daughter in a way that parents can only hope for," John told CBS.
Although Carleton can open her eyes, she has yet to fully recover from the coma. Her continued care and treatment is expensive, and Lande must eventually return to work as a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy. The couple’s story has been followed on the “Support Melissa Carleton” Facebook page and on a GoFundMe.com site, which has generated help from family, friends, and strangers. Currently, the GoFundMe page, has raised over $83,000 to help pay for not only hospitals bills, but mortgage payments and Carleton’s practice bills, since they both are not working.
In the meantime, while Carleton recovers, Lande and her family will make sure the first-time mom gets plenty of time with West. While Carleton cannot change her son’s diaper, doctors have given the OK for her to breastfeed to have plenty of “skin-to-skin” contact, so she can be a mom.