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HOMER – A newborn child’s close brush with her mother’s coronavirus symptoms has left a local family relieved, joyful and reunited in the wake of the parent’s recovery.
Alivia Pease, who was born March 23, tested as virus-free after delivery at Marshall-based Oaklawn. The child is believed to be Michigan’s first case of an infant delivered by a mother who had contracted the virus strain – also known as COVID-19, which produces severe acute respiratory symptoms.
The family’s suspenseful health challenge began in late March as Mallory and Mitchell Pease of Homer prepared for Alivia’s delivery. The couple also are the parents of 19-month-old Emma.
“I’d been sick for about a week and I had started coughing and having a little shortness of breath, but I was still walking around and taking care of things, so I wasn’t in too bad a shape yet,” recalled Mallory Pease, who is 27.
On arrival at Oaklawn’s Birth Center in Marshall, Pease consulted with J. Summer Liston, M.D., a family physician based at the Oaklawn Medical Group’s Tekonsha office.
“Summer noticed I was struggling to breathe and catch my breath,” Pease said. Subsequent tests for influenza and pneumonia came back as negative, however.
“The elephant in the room kept growing and growing,” said Pease, who ultimately was tested for COVID-19.
Before the results came in, Pease gave birth to Alivia. Because Liston and Oaklawn staff already suspected Pease had contracted the virus, the mother and baby immediately were separated – Pease at the hospital’s COVID-19 unit and Alivia at the Birth Center’s isolation nursery, where the baby was tested for the virus.
“I got my test results back and it came back positive,” Pease said. “But her test came back negative.”
Liston said the prompt separation of mother and child protected the baby from the virus, and she credited Oaklawn’s staff for taking multiple precautions to minimize the possibility of transmission during the delivery process.
“We never expected that we would be dealing with the first such case in Michigan, working with a COVID-positive mom,” Liston said.
“As far as we know, there have been only a couple of cases in which moms have passed the virus to their babies,” the physician added. Those cases apparently resulted from airborne transmission during close contact rather than blood shared through the placenta, she said.
“We were able to protect our staff because we were aware of the possibility that the mother might have it,” Liston said. “We addressed it as we should, and we were pleased that Mallory recovered so quickly.”
Three days after Alivia’s birth, Pease was discharged to go home. However, as a further precaution, Alivia remained at the Marshall hospital for observation while Mitchell and Emma Pease moved into the Homer residence of Mallory’s parents.
“We saw each other once in about 10 days, but thank goodness for phones and FaceTime,” Mallory Pease said. “When I was in the hospital, my husband and I and the nurse who was taking care of Alivia would get on FaceTime. We would do a three-way call with each other. The nurse would show us Alivia, so we would be able to see her and talk to her and let her hear our voices.
“The Birth Center staff was really very good about keeping us updated and letting us call. That made it easier,” she said, adding that Alivia was discharged five days after birth to be taken to the Litchfield home of Mallory Pease’s aunt, Dawn Renfroe.
Ten days after Alivia’s birth, the mother and child were determined to be without coronavirus symptoms. Mitchell and Emma came to Litchfield to bring Mallory and Alivia back to their home in Homer, where the family remains symptom-free.
“It (the reunion) was much needed for all of us,” Pease said. “We are a pretty close group and I think being together has helped everybody – definitely me, in my recovery process.”
The family is deeply relieved after the unanticipated ordeal.
“I’d never spent a night away from my firstborn,” Pease said. “I went from worrying about a hospital stay to worrying about both my children. It was a lonely stay in the hospital – and now we’re definitely all glad to be back home together.”
She also voiced specific praise for the combined efforts of Liston and the Oaklawn medical team.
“So little is known about this (virus), that it seemed that every day something was different and something new came along to deal with,” Pease said.
“Everybody was doing their best to roll with the punches,” she said. “I wasn’t just a COVID patient – I was recovering from labor, too. They definitely did their best to make me as comfortable as possible. I can’t thank them enough for taking care of me, putting themselves at risk, taking care of my baby and making sure she was happy and healthy and well fed.”
Readers with general questions related to the coronavirus or who would like to be screened may call Oaklawn’s Coronavirus Hotline at (269) 789-7614 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. any day of the week.
Additional information also is available at oaklawnhospital.org/coronavirus, which offers information that includes changes to Oaklawn’s visitor policy, hours and donation inquiries.