Ex-Figure Skater Dies, Gives Birth Two Days Later

Did you know you’re going to cry today? It’s true. You’re going to read this story and see this picture and because there is even one sliver, one ounce of humanity in you, you will–at the very least–wipe your eyes about 7-10 times but never admit to it. But this is your early, but still prohibitive favorite for Saddest Sports Story of 2009: the story of a former champion figure skater who became a mother… two days after she died.

Aya Jayne Soliman

That’s Aya Jayne Soliman, all 2 pounds, 11.5 ounces of her, after spending just 26 weeks in mother Jayne Soliman’s womb. Soliman, then Jayne Campbell, was the top British free skater in 1989, and she worked her way to 7th in the entire world that year. But competitive skating gave way to coaching, which led her to Abu Dhabi. She would meet her eventual husband there, and the two moved back to England, where Jayne was enjoying a healthy pregnancy. Then, cruel, sudden, and unforeseeable tragedy struck:

Mrs Soliman had been healthy throughout her pregnancy, and continued working as a coach at Bracknell Skating Club. She was on the ice last Wednesday before she suddenly collapsed in her bedroom after complaining of a headache.

She was flown by air ambulance to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford but hours later, in the early evening, was declared brain dead.

Doctors told devastated [husband Mahmoud] Soliman that an aggressive tumour had rapidly developed in her brain in just a few weeks - and had suddenly ruptured a major blood vessel.

The good news in that avalanche of horror for Mahmoud was that despite the brain death, the doctors could keep Jayne’s heart beating and that their child might be saved. And sure enough, over the next 48 hours while Mahmoud could only watch helplessly, staff at the hospital aggressively administered steroids to Jayne to spur organ growth in the unborn daughter. After the steroid treatment, in order to avoid any complications with the mother’s non-functioning immune system, the baby was born via Caesarean.

The couple’s friends David Phillips, 48, and his wife Lucine, both keen ice skaters, were at the hospital for the last moments of Mrs Soliman and the arrival of her daughter.

Mrs Phillips said: ‘Aya was born kicking and wriggling. It’s hard to describe the emotions I was going through when I saw her - it was a mixture of tragedy, elation and relief.

‘It was so sad to think that Jayne was never going to see her beautiful baby. A midwife picked Aya up and put her little face up to Jayne’s. If Jayne had been awake she would have had eye contact with her daughter.

The midwife then gave Mahmoud his new daughter to hold before sending it into intensive care - babies really aren’t meant to be born at 26 weeks, after all - and Mahmoud stayed in the room to bid his wife a final goodbye as they turned off life support.

Mrs. Soliman was just 41.