DENVER — Heartbreak and hope happen every day inside hospitals.
The James family experienced heartbreak when 26-year-old Amber James couldn't breathe. She went to a nearby hospital in Thornton but was transferred to Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver when her condition got worse.
James tested positive for COVID-19 while she was 33 weeks pregnant.
“I’m here at home powerless not knowing what to do I can’t do anything," said Brett James, her husband, who was not allowed to visit her. "I had never been away from her while she was sick. Ever."
Less than 24 hours after Amber was transferred, doctors put her on a ventilator.
The next day, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section to save her baby.
“And it came to the point where we needed to get the baby out for baby’s sake and it was a risk to mom," said Dr. Roy Bergstrom, an OB Hospitalist in the Obstetrix Medical Group who helped care for Amber James.
Bergstrom said he and his team have performed more than a dozen emergency cesarean sections on moms with COVID-19.
This one was different.
“We’re Jehovah's Witnesses so we don’t accept blood, and that was the biggest struggle for me," said Brett James. "Because the doctor just straight told me, he’s like, 'so if she starts bleeding, you want us to let her die?' Just like that. And well yeah that’s our religion and that’s what we believe in."
Bergstrom said he had conversations with Amber James about this before she was intubated.
“It was definitely both an ethically challenging thing, and an emotionally challenging thing knowing that may come to be a factor in her care," he said.
Luckily, there were no complications in Amber's C-section, and baby Michilah survived.
Mom woke up almost two weeks later.
"I was on a ventilator for 13 days," said Amber James, her voice hoarse from having a tube down her throat for that long.
During that time she said she had dreams where her husband was with her the entire time. She told the nurse she thought they were real.
“He was always with me," said Amber James. "Everywhere I went in my dream. He was there."
Brett James did call her every day. But it wasn't until she woke up that she could say something back to him, and see him.
That's when he told her their baby daughter was alive and well.
“I remember him telling me," said Amber James. "They were like she’s beautiful, she has hair."
Michilah is still in the NICU at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children but Bergstrom said she is doing well and will be able to go home soon.
Amber James still has a long way to go to recover.
She said her body forgot things while she was unconscious for so long, and her left foot can't move.
“You can survive the virus but the aftermath of the virus is a totally different thing," said Brett James. "Like her not being able to walk."
Brett has also tested positive for COVID-19, although he has not had symptoms, and so their daughter will stay with her aunt until they know they won't pass the virus along to her.
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