BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York mother got the scare of her life after learning she had COVID-19 minutes before undergoing an emergency Caesarean section.
Katelyn Marie of Rochester told WKBW that she was not allowed to see her newborn daughter for an entire week.
"One of the most traumatizing things that I've ever been through," Marie said.
Marie thought she had planned her third child's birth perfectly.
"I was planning a home birth and I had a midwife in Buffalo," she said.
When she arrived in Buffalo on Thursday, Nov. 4, she said she was getting a routine checkup done by her midwife.
"Some of my lab results looked a little funky, so she wanted me to follow up with a fetal medicine doctor. I went to that appointment that day for an ultrasound, a stress test. That's when they discovered that there was no fluid around the baby and there was a lack of movement. That's why they wanted me to get to the hospital right away for further testing to see if she would come out or needed to stay in a few more days," she explained.
At 33 weeks, Marie was headed to the hospital.
"Since I was in Buffalo, they said I had no time to drive back home to Rochester."
That is when she learned she would be undergoing an emergency C-section at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.
"So, they were prepping me for the C-section. I was crying, trying to process all of this. They quickly swabbed me. So, then we were just waiting there for that and it came back positive and I was in shock because one- I already had COVID at the beginning of the year and [two] I had no symptoms."
However, what happened next is something Marie said she wants other expecting mothers to be aware of.
"They let me hold her. I had a c-section so I was on the table. They let me hold her for maybe a minute."
The baby was immediately taken into an isolated NICU, according to Marie.
"I was in shock that no one would be able to see my baby, that they weren't making any accommodations to try to help us in this situation. I couldn't believe what was happening and that this does happen," she said.
Unable to see or touch her baby, the new mother said she and her husband frantically tried to think of ways for them to see their newborn who was put in an isolated NICU room.
"We already had a game plan of what was going to happen since she was going to be going to the NICU. Basically, my husband was going to go with her and my doula was going to come with me, but then because of this, they said my husband was going to have to leave and go get tested, if he wanted to come back. If his test was negative, then, he could come back and be with the baby but he would not be allowed to see me either way," she explained. "We asked if they could retest us. Retest me, first of all, and if they can test him there and they refused to do any testing."
Since her daughter was born premature, Marie said doctors told her that walking through the NICU with COVID-19 would be risky.
A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered premature or born too early," according to Stanford Children's Health. Many premature babies weigh less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Marie's daughter was born at 3.1 lbs.
"Just because she's NICU and she has a line in her belly for glucose so they can't take her out of where she is right now," Marie said. "They said if she was full term, we would keep her with you but because she is not, and she has to go to the NICU unit, you're a risk walking through the unit. I said, 'Well, if I wear PPE through the unit, she's in her own room, she's isolated and she's in a box herself,' but they would not do it. They said, 'Nope.'"
She said she was not allowed to see or touch her daughter for a week. She left the hospital without her baby and headed back home to Rochester to care for her two other kids, while her husband stayed at the hospital.
"This is just a recipe for postpartum depression. The impact that this is going to have on the baby, but also the mother," she explained.
Marie even took to Facebook to share her traumatic experience:
That is until her lawyer called the hospital threatening to sue on Wednesday, Nov. 10.
"I just want other women to know what they are walking into when they walk into a hospital to give birth. It's a really scary thing. I didn't even know that this was something that could be taken from me. A human that grew inside my body, that I carried. Now, those decisions are being made for me," Marie said. "The only thing that feels frustrating about all of this is that the moms are the ones paying the price. Dad gets to go see the baby if he can provide a negative test."
Later Wednesday night, Marie told WKBW that she was able to see her daughter and immediately hopped into her car and left for Buffalo. She said she was able to see her daughter in the NICU, with proof of her negative COVID-19 test.
Friday night, Marie told WKBW that she wants families to know these situations are not just happening at Sisters for Charity Hospital, but other hospitals as well. She added that the care has been great in the NICU.
Once her daughter gets stronger, she said the family plans to transfer her to a hospital near their home in Rochester.
Catholic Health was able to release this statement in regards to Marie's unusual situation:
"Catholic Health's first responsibility is to protect the welfare and safety of our patients and staff. Our COVID-19 policies comply with regulations and recommendations from numerous health agencies. Like those of other neonatal intensive care providers, our policies must be stringent to protect premature babies in our NICUs and the staff who care for them. Our NICU visitation policy for parents who test positive for COVID-19 complies with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. We cannot comment on specific patients due to HIPAA privacy regulations."
This story was originally published by Pheben Kassahun at WKBW.