Bayhealth Employee and Patient, Demetrian Denby and Family

Mother Survives COVID-19 Diagnosis Hours After Giving Birth

Occasionally in healthcare, the roles are reversed, and the caregiver becomes the patient. In this case, the patient was a Bayhealth Medical Group employee who was expecting her third child during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly one year after returning to work, it is an experience Demetrian Denby is grateful she survived to share with others.

“It was a rough road, but by the grace of God I made it through,” praised Denby, who spent the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic treating patients at Bayhealth Gastroenterology, Sussex Campus. Having worked in healthcare for 18 years, she has experienced a lot, but nothing prepared her for what happened after giving birth to her son.

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, Denby arrived at Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus. She arrived with a friend because someone within her household was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Denby was admitted to the Center for Women and Infants where her son, Zayven, was born later that day. She spent the hours after his delivery holding him closely—a time she treasured greatly. As Denby was preparing to go home, she noticed a side effect she had not experienced with her previous deliveries. “My chest felt unusually heavy. I was short of breath after just walking around my room.”

“There are many postpartum complications that can cause a fever and shortness of breath. As caregivers, we want to explore every option,” explained Stacey Kemp, RNC, WHCNP, one of her care providers. “We were concerned it could be a pulmonary embolism, but because this was the peak of the pandemic, we were also worried it could be COVID-19.”

Her caregivers ordered an ultrasound to check for potential blood clots. The results were negative, but by evening she had also developed a fever. Physicians ordered tests for COVID-19 and a chest X-ray.

“As her symptoms worsened quickly, she was transferred to our Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We did not wait for the results to come back. She was treated as if she had COVID-19. As a healthcare system, we’re always focused on safety,” said Bayhealth Intensivist Simran Matta, MD, one of the physicians who cared for Denby in the ICU. In fact, this past year, Bayhealth hospitals received distinct honors like being named national “Top Hospital” by The Leapfrog Group and “Top Maternity Hospital” by Newsweek—for being among the nation’s best hospitals by achieving exceptional quality and safety standards, for patients just like Denby.

“I was in shock. I didn’t have any COVID-19 symptoms before giving birth. I still had my taste and sense of smell,” Denby said.

According to Dr. Matta, her health deteriorated quickly. Two days after delivering her baby, Denby was placed on supplemental oxygen. The test results came back positive for COVID-19 and the chest X-ray revealed she had double pneumonia. Denby learned that if her breathing did not improve, the next step would be a ventilator.

“I said to them, ‘who is being put on a ventilator? Certainly not me?’ I was in shock,” she said. “The rest of it is all a blur.”

While Denby’s memory is foggy, the moments remain clear for her friends and family, as well as the nurses and physicians caring for her in the ICU at Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus. Just four days after giving birth, Denby was placed on a ventilator. Baby Zayven was also tested for COVID-19. Miraculously, his results were negative.

The caregivers in the ICU wanted Denby to be surrounded by positivity. As she was fighting for her life, they decorated her room with photos of Zayven and her other two children. At the time, visitor restrictions were in place as a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of Bayhealth patients and employees. The caregivers collected video messages from friends and family members to add a personal touch to her room.

“Although nothing compares to being there in person to hold the hand of a family member, the video calls definitely helped facilitate the emotional connection and healing our patients needed from their loved ones,” said Dr. Matta.

“While I was on the ventilator, some of the nurses would sit next to me and play video messages from my family,” Denby recalled. “I can remember seeing and hearing the videos, but not being able to speak. The nurses would say ‘keep fighting.’”

The ventilator delivered the much-needed oxygen to her body and after five days the care team removed it.

“When I was extubated, we all cried. We were really emotional. I was so touched by the nurses and physicians who took care of me. They told me at times they didn’t know if I would make it.”

On May 5, 2020, about two weeks after having her son, Denby was released from the hospital. A crowd of caregivers and Bayhealth team members cheered as she left the building to be reunited with her family.

Nearly one year ago, Denby returned to work at Bayhealth. She is reminded daily of the loving care she received from her nurses and physicians at Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus. “Every day is a gift. I am so grateful to be here to watch my children grow up.”

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