Weighing just 2Ib 14oz she lay hooked up to wires and tubes in a neonatal unit on August 29, 1977.
But there was no anxious parent nearby, lovingly holding her minuscule hand, desperately willing her to live.
Because Melissa Ohden’s mother had left the hospital in Iowa, believing the toxic saline solution she’d been given over a five-day period when she was eight months pregnant had aborted her child.
However the procedure had failed but Melissa’s mother had no idea her daughter had survived, against the odds, until 36 years later.
After Melissa learnt about her traumatic start in life, she spent nearly two decades searching for answers and would discover her guilt-ridden birth mother had not wanted to have the termination.
Melissa also learnt that she is alive today because a nurse heard her weak cries, slight movements and gasps for breath as she lay discarded as medical waste and rushed her to intensive care.
And in a macabre twist, it emerged there was another nurse at the hospital who had instructed the others to ‘leave the baby in the room to die’.
Devastatingly, Melissa, who lives in Missouri, US, found out that that woman – one of the supervisors in charge that day – was in fact her own grandmother.
Here Melissa re-tells her astonishing journey exclusively to Mail Online and reveals how she learnt to forgive her mother and grandmother – who she has chosen not to name.
The circumstances around Melissa’s traumatic start in life took her decades to fully unravel.
Such a discovery would drive most people to become bitter and twisted. But Melissa – who was adopted by a loving family and reunited with her birth mother last year after a 17-year search – says she’s found it in her heart to forgive.
‘I discovered that my birth mother, aged 19, had been forced into the abortion by her own mother, who was an educational nurse at the hospital,’ said the 40-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri, who has written a memoir about her life.
‘She was heavily sedated and didn’t know that I had been born alive. It would be 30 odd years before she learned the truth.
‘It’s been a long and painful journey from shame and anger to faith and forgiveness. But I refuse to be poisoned by bitterness – that’s no way to live.’
Battle to live
The doctors who carried out the abortion at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, had estimated that Melissa’s mother, whose identity she has chosen to keep private, was about 20 weeks along.
But the fact that she had survived the saline infusion – a method largely no longer used in the US and UK because of its failure rate – led them to believe she was actually 31 weeks when induced.
Melissa suffered jaundice, respiratory distress and seizures. It was expected that even if she did survive she would have vision problems, hearing loss and developmental delays.
Three weeks later, she was transferred to the University Hospital in Iowa City. The nurses who cared for the nameless baby made her tiny clothes and colorful booties.
One, called Mary, decided she needed an identity and named her Katie Rose.
At three months old she left the hospital and was taken in by Linda and Ron Ohden, a couple who had already adopted a girl called Tammy, four years older than Melissa.
For years, her adoptive parents and Mary kept in touch, exchanging Christmas cards and letters with pictures and updates on her progress. When Melissa got older, she wrote the letters herself.
‘Mary and I began a friendship that would last for decades,’ she explains. ‘It made me feel so special that this nurse cared for me when no one else did.’
Despite some early struggles, by age five Melissa had caught up developmentally and was given a clean bill of health.
SOURCE: CLAUDIA TANNER