Nearly three months after giving birth while in a coma with Covid-19, a Wisconsin woman met her newborn child for the first time last week.
Kelsey Townsend, 32, was recently discharged from a hospital in Madison, Wisc., and reunited with her husband and four children, including her baby girl Lucy. She said it was “amazing” to hold her daughter when she returned home.
“I have been waiting for a long time to meet her, and I was overjoyed,” Townsend told NBC News.
In late October, she was nine months pregnant when she was diagnosed with Covid-19. Shortly after contracting the virus, Townsend, who had no pre-existing conditions, was admitted to a nearby hospital due to shortness of breath, coughing and pneumonia, according to her husband, Derek Townsend. There, she was placed in a medically induced coma and gave birth to Lucy, who tested negative for the virus and later joined the rest of the family at home.
Townsend’s health quickly deteriorated, and she was transferred to UW Health in Madison, where she spent multiple months on an ECMO machine and a ventilator.
"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 said.
By December, doctors said Townsend needed a double lung transplant to survive, and she was placed on a waiting list. Derek said he broke the news to his wife on Christmas Eve, telling her that "she wasn't getting any better and couldn't come home without the transplant."
Within days of being added to the waitlist, Townsend’s lung condition significantly improved, and by mid-January, she was moved out of the intensive care unit and weaned off an ECMO machine and a ventilator. She is also no longer accepting offers for a double lung transplant.
Dr. Daniel P. McCarthy, UW Health cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the ECMO program, who closely cared for Townsend, said he doesn't know what allowed her lungs to bounce back after battling the virus for months.
"We 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," McCarthy said.
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On Jan. 27, Townsend was released from the hospital and is currently on supplemental oxygen and receiving physical therapy treatment.
“Her strength throughout this whole process is what inspired our whole family to have strength. Many times she was down and out, but she pulled through,” Derek said.
While it will take months for Townsend to recuperate and regain her strength, McCarthy said he is optimistic that she will fully recover from Covid-19.
“Kelsey has made significant strides... she is truly an inspiration because of the way she endured all of these challenges,” McCarthy added.