Health Care

It's a boy! Comatose Fresno woman gives birth to son

Melissa Carleton, the Fresno woman who has struggled for more than two months to regain full consciousness, had her baby boy Thursday.

West Nathaniel Lande was born at 10:56 a.m. Thursday, her beaming husband Brian Lande said in a telephone interview from his wife's bedside.

West weighs 5 pounds and 9 ounces and is 19 inches long -- and he was sleeping. Mother and son were doing fine, Lande said: "I'm touching my son's cheek now and giving Melissa a little kiss."

Months of worry vanished at the baby's first loud cry.

Carleton, a Fresno marriage and family therapist, has been in a comatose state at the University of California at San Francisco for more than two months. A seizure caused brain damage on the night before she was scheduled to have surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. Doctors successfully operated, but Carleton hasn't been fully awake since.

Lande has been at Carleton's side, celebrating small victories -- a hand movement, eye openings, a grin. On Thursday, he held her hand from behind a curtain in the operating room as doctors delivered their son by Caesarean section.

Family and friends -- and strangers -- have followed the couple's story on Facebook. They have donated money in support of Carleton, a 1993 Edison High School graduate. And a San Francisco police officer is letting Lande, a Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy, stay rent-free at an apartment near the hospital.

And as the weeks ticked by with "baby boy" growing inside Carleton, attention turned to preparing for West's birth. Baby clothes and supplies began arriving.

Doctors had told Lande the baby had a good chance if Carleton could carry him for 28 weeks. He was born full term.

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Lande waited until Thursday to reveal his son's name -- West Nathaniel. Carleton had chosen West from a list of character names for screenplays. She has written screenplays for years, Lande said. For her son's middle name, she picked Nathaniel, the name of a favorite television character, he said.

Thursday, Lande, 32, said West's birth had a "bittersweet side to it." His son is healthy and happy but Carleton was not awake for the delivery. "I can't wait for her to wake up and move her hands and touch him," he said.

Lande swaddled West after his birth and changed his first diaper. But, Lande said, "We're going to help Melissa breast-feed and have plenty of skin-to-skin time so she can be a mom."

Carleton, 39, had relished her pregnancy -- her first -- and had been preparing for motherhood when she began having headaches. Tests found the brain tumor.

Lawanna Farrell, a Fresno nurse, said she's pretty sure her daughter understands she has given birth. "I think she's aware."

Before the Cesarean delivery Thursday, Carleton had her best day, Farrell said. "She was more awake than she has been. She reached for Brian and puckered her lips so she could kiss him."

Lande also believes Carleton knows she's a mother. "She did wake up a little bit when he came in the room and first cried," he said. "And Melissa and baby were face-to-face, and her eyes were open."

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Folks can also help by either preparing meals for Brian and the family, or having delivery sent out -- this can be set up through