SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A Syracuse couple will have quite the story to tell their newborn daughter when she grows up. Their baby arrived as the COVID-19 pandemic took off in our state and a 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit the Wasatch Front.
“I feel like being pregnant and preparing to have a baby is already really stressful and you go through a lot in those nine months,” said McKenna Tulane. “As it got closer and things became more serious, I remember everyone was going crazy with hand sanitizer and toilet paper.”
McKenna and her husband, Mitch’s second daughter, Jersey arrived three weeks ahead of her due date on March 16th. They said their hospital experience this time was vastly different than their first one with their four-year-old daughter, Everlee.
“They asked us a list of questions about whether we’ve been out of the country and if we had any symptoms such as a cough or fever,” said McKenna.
Mitch said the couple didn’t know until they got to the delivery room that they weren’t allowed to have visitors, not even Everlee.
“I think we had six people in the delivery room when Evies was born between McKenna’s sisters, moms, and grandpa. Our dads were outside the waiting room. This time, it was much less of a party. It went from having eight people at the hospital to one,” said Mitch. “That vision quickly went out the window.”
Unsure of what their post-birth plan would be, McKenna spent more time alone at the hospital after sending Mitch to stock up on groceries and supplies in the case they would have to stay home for an extended amount of time. After baby Jersey’s first night at home from the hospital, the 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit the Wasatch Front.
“We live in a new development so there are still new homes being built. At first, I thought there were tractors driving in the backyard. I thought it was a little early for them to get started, but then it didn’t stop,” he said. “The rest of that morning, we were worried, thinking, ‘What else is going to happen?’ We canceled Jersey’s first pediatrician that morning because we just didn’t want to go out during the aftermath of the earthquake.”
Dr. Lexi Eller, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Intermountain Medical Center said expecting couples shouldn’t be worried about their prenatal care and labor experience being much different, other than the prescreening process during check-in and the change in their visitor policy.
“One of the changes they may see in their prenatal care is that we, as physicians, are trying to do as much telehealth as we can, just to minimize patient exposure to our clinics and to hospital settings,” said Dr. Eller.
Good practice of social distancing, hand washing, and staying home whenever possible are all ways pregnant women and their loved ones can help them avoid being exposed to the virus before delivery. She said they have not experienced a large influx of patients at Intermountain Medical center due to the virus and ensures the hospital is still a safe place for deliveries.
“I want healthy women to know it’s safe to come and deliver in the hospital. We are here and we are taking all the precautions,” said Dr. Eller. “Women should be expressing their anxieties and fears to their doctors because that’s important to address.”
For pregnant women who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, examination, testing, and treatment will take place outside of the hospital. Dr. Eller said if you are experiencing more significant symptoms, call your caregiver first and see where you can be seen in person. If you’re having severe symptoms, head to the emergency department.
“We are still learning a lot about COVID-19 and how it affects pregnant women. Right now, we are seeing pregnant women are doing pretty well, but we still have heightened surveillance to watch the patients closely,” she said. “In the past, we’ve seen viruses like the flu make pregnant women much sicker than non-pregnant women. But that hasn’t necessarily been the case with COVID-19. However, we just don’t have enough data to say that for sure yet.”
Dr. Eller said experts are seeing some pregnant women with the virus deliver earlier. But they have not seen any indication that the virus can compromise the pregnancy or be transmitted in the course of the pregnancy to the baby.
“We need to watch other women who’ve already had their babies very closely because some of our colleagues on the east coast are actually seeing women with coronavirus become sick after they deliver. So we need to make sure that we all have such heightened vigilance,” she said.
At Intermountain facilities, their policy does not allow pregnant women with COVID-19 to have a loved one as their personal support person during labor and the course of their hospital stay.
“I want everyone to know that we have the most incredible team of nurses and we are planning to be that support person. We’ve changed our policies around nursing staff. All of our patients right now, we’re planning to have, whenever possible, two nurses devoted to that patient’s labor so they have one support person with them all the time.”
The Tulane family told ABC4 News they are doing well after their stressful ordeal and have remained at home without visitation to keep everyone safe.
“There’s just too much that’s unknown. We don’t know when things are going to go back to normal or when our family will be able to meet her,” they said. “We’re taking it day by day and being as careful as we can. Everyone is scared right now, but doing their best to stay healthy.”