A newborn is fighting to survive after being saved from the lifeless body of her mother, who died in a horrific car crash on her way to a Missouri hospital where she was to give birth to her first child.
Matt Rider, 34, was driving his wife, 26-year-old Sarah Iler, to give birth to their daughter when a tanker truck crashed into a Nissan SUV on Interstate 55, which then hit the couple’s red Chevrolet Blazer at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.
The couple’s vehicle overturned and its occupants were thrown from the vehicle. Iler was killed on impact, family told the Southeast Missourian.
Emergency responders rushed to give Iler CPR in an effort to save her baby, who was delivered by Cesarean section at Saint Francis Medical Center.
Iler was already dilated and one day past her due date at the time of the crash.
Their baby, named Maddyson, was born 4 pounds, 15 ounces and was initially in critical condition, the paper reported. The infant was immediately placed on a ventilator but has since begun to breathe on her own.
“She is continuing to make small improvements,” a relative wrote on a GoFundMe page created to offset her mother’s funeral costs. The baby has opened her eyes and grabbed a nurse’s finger.
Still, doctors don’t yet know if she suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen after her mother’s death, family said.
The child was taken off a cooling blanket, which is used to protect newborns that are deprived of oxygen during birth, the fundraising page said. Relatives were waiting Monday for the results of an MRI.
Rider is also recovering after shattering all of his limbs in the crash. He was flown to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he was treated for broken ribs, arms, and legs, loved ones said. He has undergone several surgeries.
Though little Maddyson is not biologically his, Rider wrote on Facebook that he couldn’t wait to be her dad. He and Iller had reconciled after being estranged for some time.
“It’s the greatest opportunity anyone’s ever given me in my entire life,” he wrote. “I thank God for Sarah every day.”
Iler's two sisters and their mother told the Southeast Missourian they did not know yet who would take care of the little girl.
Rider, who was recovering at a hospital 115 miles away from his daughter, has spoken to the infant on the phone, family said. He was also left struggling with the loss of his wife, who family said was so excited to become a mom.
“I felt my sister gave her life to save this baby,” Kassandra Iler told the Missourian. “That’s how God wanted it. We’ve been calling her our little miracle.”
Devastated family and friends gathered Sunday to say goodbye to Iler, who was fondly remembered as “a great friend, fun-loving aunt, and a crazy cousin,” family wrote on GoFundMe.
“She was the BEST sister you could ask for. She was always willing to help anyone that she could. She was always there with a shoulder to cry on and listened to everything. She was always willing to do anything crazy to make you laugh. Anyone who knows her knows she had a smile on her face.”
"Sarah will be greatly missed by many," the post continued, noting her daughter "will have lots of stories and fun memories shared with her as she grows up."