COVID miracle mum’s Christmas wish
Kaillee and her partner Chris* were over the moon when they found out they were expecting twins last year.
But in July 2020, at 26 weeks pregnant, Kaillee was admitted to intensive care after contracting COVID during Melbourne’s second deadly wave.
Her condition quickly deteriorated to the point where she was sedated and placed on a ventilator that was breathing for her.
“I was gasping for air and thought that I was dying. I called Chris and I said, ‘If I don’t make it or something happens to me, keep my body alive for the babies until they’re old enough to come out.’ I thought that I was going to die, or the three of us were going to die, because I felt that I was drowning.”
Chris feared the worst.
“It was the most terrifying moment of my life. Things weren’t looking good and the Women’s maternity team was preparing to deliver the babies early,” Chris recalls.
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Miraculously, Kaillee pulled through and started to breathe again on her own. She was discharged two-and-a-half weeks later, however at 34 weeks, with mounting concerns regarding the babies health, the decision was made to deliver the twins.
“I don’t even have the words to express the care that I’ve received from the Women’s. It was just a really lovely experience, the whole thing,” Kaillee says of the birth.
Weighing 1.7 kilograms and 1.9 kilograms at birth, the twins were in good health. They spent four weeks in the Women’s Special Care Nursery before going home. Since then, the babies have been thriving, reaching all their milestones and recently celebrating their first birthday with a virtual party.
“Motherhood is wonderful,” Kaillee says. “I love them more and more each day.”
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Despite the healthy outcome, Kaillee is still recovering from long-term COVID which has significantly impacted her health – including the function of her liver and lungs.
“When I get a cold, especially if the babies have been in daycare and they bring things home, my lungs start burning again and aching,” she says.
She still has flashbacks from her time in ICU, and says she’s more guarded from the near-death experience.
“I still get a tightening in my chest when I pass somebody without a mask on. I think I'm probably not as light and carefree as I used to be. But I do say ‘I love you’ more to people now and I try and be more open and vulnerable with those who I love.”
Kaillee, along with other pregnant women who have been diagnosed with COVID, are part of a study being led by Dr Clare Whitehead and her team at the Women’s Pregnancy Research Centre. They are contributing to global research efforts to ensure women and babies affected by COVID receive the best care possible.
The Australian study recruited around 100 participants in 2020, but with the arrival of the Delta variant this year nearly 500 women are now involved.
“We’ve had many more women admitted to ICU than in 2020. Most of those who are severely unwell have been in the second half of their pregnancy, and have been admitted to the ICU for longer,” says Dr Whitehead.
“But we’ve been fortunate that because our most recent wave came after those in Europe and the USA, we have the advantage of data to support new treatments and the safety of COVID vaccinations in pregnancy. So, when cases started to go up here we could say that vaccination was a safe and sensible thing to do to protect pregnant women and their babies.”
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As Kaillee and Chris prepare for their second Christmas as parents, Kaillee has a simple wish – for everyone to get vaccinated.
“If there can be something positive from my story, it’s letting people know the importance of getting vaccinated. Even if you don’t become as unwell as I did, it’s not something that you want to live with or experience, it does impact your day-to-day life and it can have a long-term impact,” she says.
Kaillee would also like for people to support the healthcare workers – and the hospitals – who’ve worked tirelessly to protect Victorians throughout the pandemic.
“I don’t know how the healthcare workers are still standing. They're the true heroes in this pandemic. They've done everything they could in their power to keep people safe and alive and my babies probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the care, expertise and equipment at the hospital."
|Kaillee, Chris and the twins are able to celebrate Christmas together this year because of the world-class research and exceptional care Kaillee received at the Women’s. This Christmas please give to help more women and babies get the miracle they deserve. Donate now|
* Kaillee used the pseudonym Mia in previous communications. Since then, she has become an advocate for vaccination and chose to reveal her real name.