Hug that Changed Medicine

hug-medicine2SHOULD we hug or not? For some people it might be awkward, for others it is just a cultural norm, but a special incident (and a touching story, literally) proved that it can save lives. In 1995, a premature baby saved her twin by simply hugging her, showing us the amazing power of touch.

When twins Brielle and Kyrie Jackson were born prematurely at the Medical Center of Central Massachusetts-Memorial, each were separated by their own incubators. One was not expected to live as her condition was steadily deteriorating. Nurse Gayle Kasparian fought against the hospital rules and placed the babies in one incubator. Then the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister, immediately stabilizing her sister’s heart and temperature. They both left the hospital healthy. Today they are grownup, young women.

This incident, widely publicized in the media during the time, helped change perspective in the medical community. The technique, called “double bedding” or “co-bedding,” was rarely used in America; where twins and other multiple-birth babies are put in the same incubator, simulating their natural state in their mother’s womb. Doctors used to think that babies should be kept apart to prevent the spread of infections. Now experts believe that the threat of infection is minimal, and the benefits of the comfort and security gained by the presence of the baby’s twin far outweigh any risks. More hospitals have since adopted the practice of co-bedding.

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