New mom with COVID-19 on a ventilator after giving birth

By HALEY YAMADA and KELLY LANDRIGAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Expectant parents are known to prepare for everything, but Jessi and Benjamin Jenson could not have prepared for a fight against COVID-19 just days after their new daughter was born.

The couple, who live in Boise, Idaho, both tested positive for the virus at the end of October when Jessi Jenson was nearing the end of her pregnancy.

After a few days in bed, her husband, Benjamin Jenson, told ABC News they felt like they were on the mend.

Jessi Jenson gave birth via C-section after laboring for 36 hours and was in the hospital recovering until Nov. 1. Since she tested positive for the virus, her husband was not allowed to be with her during the birth or visit her as she recovered.

She delivered a healthy baby girl and went home, but two days later, she returned to the hospital as a result of her continued COVID-19 symptoms.

Benjamin Jenson said his wife’s body could not meet the demands of recovering from surgery and fighting the virus.

“She wasn’t able to sleep, and anytime she would doze off, she would essentially be whimpering every time she took a breath … she really only got probably half an hour to an hour’s worth of sleep, and I think that was really one of the problems that added on top everything else,” he said.

“Her body just couldn’t keep up with all the demands and not be able to sleep,” he added.

Throughout the week, Jessi Jenson’s condition worsened. She was intubated and put on a ventilator, but her oxygen levels continued to fall, her husband said.

“My older brother passed away back in New Year’s Eve 2017, and he’d been on a ventilator for three months. So there’s a lot of stressful memories associated with that,” he said.

Jessi Jenson was airlifted to a Salt Lake City hospital on Nov. 4 to be transferred to a extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which oxygenates the blood without the use of lungs. Luckily, Benjamin Jenson said they have family in Utah, so he could make the trip and have a place to stay with his newborn daughter.

With the stress of his wife’s condition while also being a new dad, Benjamin Jenson said he could not be more grateful for the support of his friends and family.

“It was pretty tough for me at first, but I was able to talk with family and friends and get a whole lot of support, love and care, and so I’m doing much better now,” he said.

“I’ve held probably six or seven babies in my entire life before my daughter was born … I couldn’t bring myself to change a diaper for the first two days after she came home. My mother-in-law has helped me out with that,” he added. “We’ve been incredibly blessed.”

As of Wednesday, Benjamin Jenson said Jessi Jenson is doing better.

“She was able to get off the ECMO machine three days ago, but we’re still on the ventilator for the foreseeable future,” he said.

He said he remains optimistic that his wife will continue to recover and that the two have a lot to look forward to.

“I’m really looking forward to her being able to hold her daughter again. I’m looking forward to being able to share with people, ‘Hey, yes, she’s doing better. Thank you for your love and your prayers and your support,’” Benjamin Jenson said. “Everything’s going to turn out alright.”

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