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She was about to give birth when she learned she had COVID-19. Here's what happened next

Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Health & Fitness

Faber's husband, Aaron, remembers being surprised at the negative result, given how sick his wife had been.

Parnit's labor continued to progress normally. And then, about 10:30 p.m., the second test result came back. It was positive.

"My OB walked in, and she was gowned up, in the full gear," Parnit said. "I looked at her and I was like, 'What happened?' and she said, 'Your test here came back positive,' and I was just shocked."

As a nurse herself, Parnit felt terrible for the nurses who had cared for her without protective equipment. She also knew the result meant that she wouldn't be able to hold her baby once he was born. She and her doctor, Colleen Skay, had discussed earlier that week what would happen if Faber were positive for COVID-19.

Parnit wanted to do the right thing for Lucas, but she missed "the bonding with the baby and being with the baby. That was really hard for my husband and myself."

She cried as Lucas was carried out of her room.

"It's heartbreaking to think about a mom not being able to spend the time she deserves with her newborn," Skay said. "We all know how very valuable that experience is for a mom and baby."

Doctors decided to keep Lucas in the NICU for about two days, just to be safe. Every day, Parnit would use FaceTime to talk with the neonatal nurses and get glimpses of her son.

"I would just cry every time, and the nurses were like, 'Oh, he's doing great,' " Parnit said.

"It was just so hard, because I missed my son," she said.

Lucas wasn't tested for COVID-19, but he never developed any symptoms and seemed healthy.

When Lucas was discharged from the hospital, the Fabers made the difficult decision to send him home with Aaron's brother and his family. Many Illinois hospital systems continue to recommend that babies born to moms with COVID-19 be released into the care of a relative -- or, if they go home with their parents, remain mostly separated from their mothers -- for a time.

In these situations, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the mother stay 6 feet away from the child. If that is not possible, the academy recommends moms wear masks and make sure their hands are clean when caring for the infant. Those precautions should be taken until the mom has been free of fever for three days and at least seven days have passed since her symptoms first appeared, or she's tested negative for COVID-19 twice.

"That was just like the worst day for us," Parnit said of the day Lucas was discharged but couldn't go home. "For the safety of the baby, we can't have him come home and expose him."

The day after Lucas was discharged, Parnit started feeling worse again. Her oxygen levels dropped and she found herself gasping for air. She had developed pneumonia. Still in the hospital, Parnit was put on oxygen and sent to the COVID-19 unit.

"All I could think was, 'I have to push through this. I have to be strong. My kids needs me. My family needs me. I can't let this virus get me,' " Parnit said.

 

The worst of the illness soon passed. After about a day and a half, Parnit no longer needed oxygen and was discharged from the hospital. She went back into self-isolation in her bedroom.

Five days passed before it was deemed safe for Lucas to come home.

Aaron Faber hadn't been tested for COVID-19, but he seemed healthy, other than one day, about a week before Lucas was born, when he ran a fever. Their two young children also had felt ill for about a day, weeks earlier, but had been fine since. Given the lack of widespread testing at the time, no one else in the family was tested for COVID-19.

Aaron finally carried Lucas across the threshold of the family's home when the boy was 9 days old. But Parnit still kept her distance, scared of harming him.

Her husband, wearing a mask, cared for Lucas. She could occasionally hear Lucas crying from her bedroom.

"I just kept telling myself: This is for him. This is for his safety," she said. "I couldn't live with myself if something happened to him."

Three days later, she was able to, at last, hold her baby.

He was 12 days old.

"It was just the best feeling in the world to hold him, to just finally be with him," she said. "I just didn't want to let him go."

So far, everyone in the family has remained healthy. Lucas is now 7 weeks old, gaining weight and sleeping well. Parnit doesn't have to go back to work until July.

Still, Parnit can't help but feel a lingering anxiety every time she coughs.

(c)2020 Chicago Tribune

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