WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) -Brian and Kathryn Ayres are the proud parents of a newborn baby girl.
Kathryn’s 39-week pregnancy went well until the very end.
Brian and Kathryn both contracted COVID-19 at the end of July.
“Fever, body aches, the things that people were experiencing, I guess,” Brian Ayres said.
“Their symptoms were a lot different than mine. Mine were almost immediately respiratory and I had no energy whatsoever. I felt like I had been run over by a bus and I just couldn’t even get out of the bed,” Kathryn Ayres said.
“And she’s like ‘Brian, I’m tired,’ that was devastating to hear because I know what those words mean, and she hugged me,” Brian said.
“But I was at peace, and I told him that,” Kathryn Ayers said.
Within a week of contracting the virus Kathryn was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Doctors could tell that the baby was starting to get into distress, so Kathryn had an emergency C-section, and delivered a healthy baby girl, Piper.
But that’s the last bit of joy the family would experience for over two months.
“They called me and they were like ‘Brian we’re getting ready to intubate her now. We’re going to put her on the vent.’ Obviously that was traumatic, and then it wasn’t even probably two or three days later and they called and it was the last resort — it was ECMO,” Brian Ayres said.
For some perspective, Kathryn was air lifted to NHRMC on July 28th, and put on ECMO on August 6th.
“I really thought I was planning a funeral. So, I’m literally at home with a newborn and a 16-year-old trying to figure out how life is going to be now,” Brian Ayres said. “Because we didn’t really know from one day to the next because it was so up and down; it was such a roller coaster of emotions.”
Even then, Brian was holding out hope for the slightest improvement.
“I called four times a day I’d call like at 10:30 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon, 10 at night and 3 in the morning when I was up feeding the baby,” Brian said. “I never knew if I was gonna hear her voice again. I didn’t know for sure if she was even going to recognize just me again; I mean, that was a concern too because I didn’t know how her mental status was going to be.”
Kathryn was in a coma until September 3rd, but she was not completely with it when she woke up Brian said.
As time went on, Kathryn made slow improvements, but doctors assured her that things wouldn’t be normal right away. She lost most of her physical strength while using every ounce of her mental and spiritual strength so she could get better and make it home to her family.
About two weeks after Kathryn got off ECMO she was able to visit with her husband and two children just outside of the hospital doors. Shortly after this quick visit, after 65 days in the hospital, Kathryn made it home, but she had a long road to recovery ahead of her.
“I couldn’t just jump up and do the things that I used to do and, you know, I’d watch people walk around the room and I was so jealous,” Kathryn said. “They help me dress and put on my shoes and things like that, Those things aren’t easy like they used to be. Range of motion issues, stairs is particularly difficult. Getting up now I notice more because physical therapy has been working with me and I did go to the rehab hospital. Those things have gotten a little easier, but something new is almost like arthritis.”
Brian was fully vaccinated when he contracted the virus, but after a number of miscarriages, Kathryn didn’t want to risk her pregnancy with a new vaccine. However, she plans to get vaccinated soon.
Even through the challenges the family is now cherishing every moment they have together.
“Now it literally is just enjoying every single day that we have is the main focus now, just focusing on the time together as a family, just the fact that I get a second chance with my wife is amazing to me. I get to have my wife home, it’s awesome,” Brian said.
“I’m grateful to be here,” Kathryn said. “There are a lot of people that aren’t here, there are a lot of children that don’t have their parents because of COVID and a lot of families buried loved ones, so I’m just grateful to God; there are issues but I’m here to do the work.”
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