Services Held for Bethel Woman

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A Bethel woman who had a baby while in a coma, then passed away was laid to rest over the weekend. The young woman was clinically brain dead for most of her pregnancy. Her baby, Faith, was born on July 8th and is now being raised by family in Bethel.

Jessie Ayagalria’s uncle, Henry Combs described her as a tomboy who loved making art and raising dogs. He said she also had a darker side though, which included abusing alcohol, and which he said sent her to the hospital one night in late January.

“It was a Sunday, in he evening,” Combs said. “Jessie had been gone for a while, out drinking for a while. I was out at church, and I had come home kinda late in the evening. She wasn’t feeling well. Then she ended up having the seizures and then we called 9-1-1.”

The 29-year-old was flown to Anchorage where doctors at Alaska Native Medical Center said she’d suffered cardiac arrest. She had no brain wave activity. They also discovered she was 12 weeks pregnant.

“There wasn’t much hope at first. Most of the doctor’s at ANMC said that she couldn’t carry the baby, that it wouldn’t work out,” Combs said.

But Combs said one doctor said it was possible. Family members agreed to put her on life support. The baby was born by C-section at 35 weeks on July 8th. They named her Faith.

Amy Bee said her cousin stayed strong for her baby.

“We all knew as soon as the baby was born … we were just waiting for Jessie to pass. And it was three days after she had her baby, I got the phone call that she passed away,” Bee said.

The community has rallied around the family. Bee and her husband Behrend Swope held a yard sale over the weekend to raise money for Faith’s care.

“We’re just putting on a sale here to benefit her. Hoping to help contribute to the family and help contribute to the family and help them afford the necessities for Faith as she’s in her early days here,” Swope said.

Krissy-Faith-pic
Krissy Medina with baby Faith. (Photo provided by KYUK-Bethel)

The baby’s aunt, Krissy Medina, is caring for Faith. She said the baby is doing well.

“She’s eating a lot more,” she said. “She’s growing. She makes me laugh every day. Seems like it’s like my sister being born again. Her whole face looks like her, especially her nose and her cheeks,” Medina said.

Combs said the family’s sadness is being eased by the baby that resembles her mom. He said he’s sharing their story because he hopes it will help others struggling with alcohol avoid the fate of his niece.

“As a lot of people do in Bethel you know its something more than just being able out to go have a good time,” Combs said.

“It ends up becoming something that’s done regularly. Unfortunately some of us kind of let that take over us. Jessie herself, I mean she did drink. She didn’t like it when others around her would, but she did herself. It was something she struggled with,” Combs said.

But Combs said despite the tragedy that his family has experienced they have not lost their faith.

“In the gravest circumstances there’s still hope and there’s faith,” Combs said. This whole entire endeavor you know really tried our family in faith and hope. There were times that we lost hope – we lost our faith. There were times when we pulled together — it’s been a long journey. What I took out of it was it renewed my faith, my hope you know that miracles do happen. Baby Faith, that’s a physical sign right there.”

Faith’s mother was laid to rest in Bethel this past weekend. Donations can be made to an account set up for the baby and her family at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union (Acc.#:1825307, checking). The family has also set up a page at ‘gofundme.com” and the yard sale to raise funds for the family is continuing this coming weekend. You can learn more about what’s being done for baby Faith at KYUK.org.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.