The Rescuing Hug: A Story about Twins and Human Connection

by Mira

This "rescuing hug" was all over the news in 1996, when Life magazine and Reader’s Digest ran the photo and the story. It resurfaced this year.

I was organizing my boards on Pinterest and found this image of what came to be called the “rescuing hug.” I looked at the photo once again, and this time clicked on it to read more that the bit in the Pinterest comment. I ended up searching on Google as well.

Here’s what I learned. Twins Brielle and Kyrie Jackson were born on October 17, 1995 at The Medical Center of Central Massachusetts, in Worcester, MA. They were premature, and not even two months early, but three. They weighed only two pounds. They were immediately put in incubators. Separately, so as to reduce the risk of infection. Kyrie seemed to be doing fine, but Brielle had breathing and heart problems, and she showed other signs of distress as well.

On the night November 12, Brielle’s condition worsened dramatically. Despite the oxygen flowing into her lungs, she had such trouble breathing that her limbs turned blue-gray. She was desperately crying and gasping for breath as her heart rate was reaching dangerously high levels. She also got hiccups. The medical staff present was afraid they might lose the baby.

The "Rescuing Hug"
The "Rescuing Hug"

One nurse attendant there, Gayle Kasparian, started trying things: she hugged the baby; she gave her to Dad, who held her lovingly; she wrapped the baby in a blanket. It didn’t change Brielle’s condition. Then she thought of something that she had heard was done in Europe, co-bedding, and placed Brielle in her sister Kyrie’s incubator. The girls' father, Paul Jackson says that as soon as the incubator door was closed, “Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie and she was just fine. She calmed right down. It was immediate. It was absolutely immediate.” Brielle’s heart and breathing relaxed, and her blood-oxygen levels got higher, closer to where they should have been.

Then Brielle dozed off. And that’s when her sister Kyrie reached out to hug her. Brielle’s heart rate then stabilized, and when the twins went home right before Christmas, they were both healthy.

Kyrie and Brielle are seventeen now, and as close as ever, finishing each other’s sentences, thinking of the same song at the same time, and so on. And, says Brielle, Kyrie still reaches out to hug her quite often. The girls are both healthy, and working away on their college applications.

The event at the Medical Center of Central Massachusetts, captured by a photographer who happened to be on the scene, helped change neonatal care in the US. Nowadays it’s common practice for twins, triplets, and quads to be placed in the same bed, especially if they are born prematurely.

It also got many thinking some more about the power of hugs, the power of emotion, and the so-little-understood power of human connection.

Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health

By Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, and The Meditative Mind

The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)

Diana Fosha, Daniel J. Siegel, Marion Solomon, eds.
Updated: 12/19/2013, Mira
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Mira on 02/06/2016

I found that story amazing, Derdriu. Just look at that little arm reaching across the other girl's shoulders :)

DerdriuMarriner on 02/04/2016

Mira, Thank you! Such a lovely true story told so wonderfully by you! It's nice that it has a happy beginning -- before the hug, with the fact that they survived early birth, and after the hug -- and a happy ending.

Mira on 03/19/2014

Thank you, Lily!

Lilysnape on 03/19/2014

Beautiful article

Mira on 01/24/2014

Thank you, Sheila! Good to see you on Wizzley! :)

sheilamarie on 01/24/2014

This is such a beautiful story! What's amazing is how long it took for them to see the obvious -- love and human connection is vital.

Mira on 01/19/2014

:) Thank you, Emma, for your words.

Guest on 01/19/2014

Mira, Such a heart-warming real-life story! And such an adorable photo. Your research into this story amplifies the love which radiates from the photo.
I noted that for suggested readings you included Daniel Goleman's book of conversations with the Dalai Lama. It's an excellent book.

Mira on 01/01/2014

Glad you read it and enjoyed it, Brandon!:)

lobobrandon on 01/01/2014

Wow! I saw the picture on the Wizzley Home page and thought of reading it, pretty much the same way you checked out the pinterest board. I'm glad I read it.

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