Kelsey Townsend, a mother of four, contracted COVID-19 while 9 months pregnant with baby Lucy. And the case was so serious, she was put in a coma and on a ventilator prior to giving birth.
After spending months apart from her newborn daughter and family, Kelsey, 32, was able to be discharged from the hospital. She was finally able to meet Lucy — who is now 3 months old for the very first time.
“I have been waiting for a long time to meet her, and I was overjoyed,” Kelsey shared with NBC News.
At the end of October, Kelsey tested positive for COVID-19 and while she had no preexisting conditions, she, unfortunately, developed a severe case of the novel virus — and when she arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, her blood oxygen was in the 40% range, dangerously below normal oxygen levels of 95%.
Doctors decided to then put her into a medically induced coma and delivered Lucy, who thankfully tested negative for COVID-19, via C-section on Nov. 4.
“Having the baby inside her is what kept her going. I’ve been told by doctors we were hours away from a different outcome that day we went in,” her husband Derek, who also tested positive for COVID-19 along with their 8-year-old daughter, told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Almost immediately after giving birth, Kelsey’s condition continued to decline — and she was placed on a ventilator and ECMO life support machine and transferred to UW Health. And in December, doctors determined her lungs were so damaged that she would require a double lung transplant to live.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of certainty that she would come home. There were many nights that I got phone calls from the doctors saying they didn’t think she was going to make it through the night — it was an emotional roller coaster,” Derek shared.
But after Kelsey was put on the lung transplant waiting list — she began to improve. In mid-January, after 75 days on the ECMO machine and a ventilator — she was able to come off both.
Her quick recovery was shocking to her doctors, who said that they “really don’t completely understand why some people recover and others don’t … or what triggers the lungs to all of a sudden start repairing and healing themselves in a way that allows us to make the progress we did,” her doctor Daniel P. McCarthy, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UW Health, shared.
On January 27, Kelsey was finally able to go home and hold Lucy for the first time.
The Townsends, who are raising money for medical expenses on GoFundMe, are not confident on where or how they contracted COVID-19. Derek stated how the family had food delivered, didn’t see family and friends and wore masks.
That being said, their three older kids went to in-person school and Kelsey worked as an office manager, but Derek said she wasn’t directly in contact with many people.
Thankfully, Kelsey is improving but requires assistance to walk and is on oxygen at all times. The family wanted to share their story as a warning to others to follow safety precautions and get vaccinated against COVID-19, which Derek called a “relentless and an invisible enemy.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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