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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.

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 during one of these explosive arguments, when I was 14, that she blurted out, “At least my parents wanted me!

At three months old she left 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.

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.

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