Rebecca Davis

OK, so you've just left the hospital with your newborn baby. You're relieved, because the baby is healthy, your heart overflows with love and you're excited to begin this new chapter in your life. Then, most parents will tell you, on the way home a strange feeling sets in.

It's as if you went to sleep in one world and woke up in another, a world that seems familiar but slightly off-key. As you gaze into the eyes of this fragile new being, it hits you: "What have I done?" And, more importantly, "What do I do now?"

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive.

In February 2009, Samantha Pierce became pregnant with twins. It was a time when things were going really well in her life.

She and her husband had recently gotten married. They had good jobs.

"I was a kick-ass community organizer," says Pierce, who is African-American and lives in Cleveland. She worked for a nonprofit that fought against predatory lending. The organization was growing, and Pierce had been promoted to management.

When Boyd Coble heard the sheriff's deputy pounding on his door in Houston in the middle of the night, he rolled over and went back to sleep. Coble, who lives alone, except for his Australian sheepdog, Wally, knew all about Hurricane Harvey. He just didn't think his own home would flood. It never had before, and even if a little water did trickle in, Coble was pretty sure he and Wally could ride it out.

Nicole was only 23 when she had a double mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis. After she recovered, Nicole got a chest tattoo that symbolizes how she wants to live life after cancer.

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German scientist Matthias Schmidt wants to extract rare earth metals from abandoned mines using bacteria. He has an unlikely partner — Nedal Said, a Syrian refugee scientist who escaped Aleppo.

The audio story for Escape from Aleppo was edited by Geoff Brumfiel; produced by Rebecca Davis; music composed by Nicholas DePrey.

To see more stories of refugee scientists and those who dared to help them, check out our series.

Sharon Belvin's nightmare with cancer began in 2004, when she was just 22.

Belvin was an avid runner but said she suddenly found she couldn't climb the stairs without "a lot of difficulty breathing."

Eventually, after months of fruitless treatments for lung ailments like bronchitis, she was diagnosed with melanoma — a very serious skin cancer. It had already spread to her lungs, and the prognosis was grim. She had about a 50-50 chance of surviving the next six months.

"Yeah, that was the turning point of life, right there," she says.

A novel immunotherapy drug is credited for successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter's advanced melanoma. Instead of killing cancer cells, these drugs boost the patient's immune system, which does the job instead.

Immunotherapy is cutting-edge cancer treatment, but the idea dates back more than 100 years, to a young surgeon who was willing to think outside the box.