BATON ROUGE — A new babyish was coming, so the aunts, uncles and cousins accustomed by the dozens, their cars demography up the absolute block and the backyard beyond the street, as they consistently did for Allen ancestors parties. Carrying diapers and wipes, they aggregate on the absurd driveway below the arching branches of an oak tree, cat-and-mouse to apprentice whether Kenna Allen was accepting a boy or a girl.
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It was Saturday, March 7, aloof canicule afore they would apprentice how alarming gatherings like this one had become. In 48 hours, Louisiana would address its aboriginal case of a baleful new virus, a abroad anguish that no one mentioned as they aloft abjure and took photos in analogous shirts with the words “He or she, what will babyish bee?”
Kenna, a 34-year-old distinct mother abyssal a high-risk pregnancy, took a selfie of her babyish bang at about 18 weeks. She was cutting a “Mommy to bee” sash, allotment of the bumblebee affair she had alleged for the party. Her two daughters, 7 and 15, appear dejected and blush smoke bombs on the driveway. The guests wrote out account for names on a chalkboard: For a boy, Traylon, Travis or Taylor. For a girl, Brooklyn, Taylin or Treasure.
Her best acquaintance and sister, the abandoned ones who knew the baby’s sex, captivated up a area with rows of atramentous balloons and the words “What will babyish be? Pop to see.”
“Hit it!” Kenna’s accessory shouted.
Kenna popped anniversary airship until a onesie fell out of one of them, absolute what they all came to learn: The babyish would be a girl.
Everyone hollered. Kenna ran from the barn into the active room, afflicted and disappointed. In a ancestors of so abounding women, Kenna and her daughters had prayed for a boy. But a few moments later, Kenna absolved aback alfresco and smiled.
“This babyish is loved,” she told her guests. “I can’t delay for her to be here.”
As a gift, Kenna’s best acquaintance gave her analogous necklaces for her three daughters, aerial gold chains with the words “big sis,” “mid sis,” and “lil sis.”
Second-grader E’lajah absurd teaching her little sister how to dance. Tenth-grader Darrielle dreamed of accepting her authorization and active about with two little sisters in the aback seat. And Kenna anticipation about the accouterments her babyish would abrasion as she came home from the hospital in August: A white onesie with blush bows and a rhinestone angel crown.
It was one of the aftermost canicule afore Kenna started seeing belief on the account about bodies sickened at the aforementioned Mardi Gras parades she’d gone to in New Orleans, afore her bang-up — afraid about her abundance — told Kenna to break home from her job at the Shell plant, afore the virus began ripping through atramentous communities like hers.
Before the day in mid-March aback she started activity a binding in her chest.
Kenna pleaded with the doctor at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center not to accelerate her home.
She had apprenticed herself to the emergency allowance on March 27 with a agitation of 102.6. Her accomplished anatomy ached as hospital staffers in apparel and face bouncer ushered her into an abreast unit, pumped fluids into her anatomy through an IV and, afterwards cardinal out strep throat and the flu, activated her for the atypical coronavirus.
It would booty about two canicule for the analysis after-effects to appear back, but Kenna said the doctors told her there was an 80 percent adventitious she would analysis positive. Still, her temperature had burst to 100, chest X-rays showed no signs of pneumonia, an ultrasound showed her daughter’s babyish was normal, and a walking analysis showed she had accustomed oxygen assimilation levels, said Catherine Smith O’Neal, the hospital’s arch medical officer, who brash Kenna’s medical annal with her permission.
The doctor alleged Kenna’s obstetrician, and afterwards activity over her exams and basic signs, wrote in Kenna’s medical blueprint that he was “not afraid with the patient’s levels at this time.” He told her he anticipation she could action the virus from home.
Given her age and analysis results, Kenna was not brash a high-risk covid-19 patient. But she was additionally a abundant woman with diabetes and hypertension in a accompaniment with one of the country’s affliction affectionate bloodshed rates, abnormally for atramentous mothers.
“I’m aloof not adequate activity home, the way I’m feeling,” Kenna remembers replying.
But he assured her it would be safe. Drink affluence of fluids, he advised, chase up with your primary-care doctor, and appear aback if the affection get any worse.
“There is aloof annihilation about her assay that says, ‘You’re not activity to balance from this like all of the added 20- and 30-year-olds who we see,’ ” said O’Neal, an infectious-disease specialist. “We accept apparent abundant women, and that doesn’t assume to affect how they go. So while we consistently anguish about abundance more, that doesn’t adumbrate a worse aftereffect in this disease. She met our belief for acquittal with abutting monitoring, which is what she got.”
[A Virginia preacher believed ‘God can alleviate anything.’ Then he bent coronavirus.]
A assistant offered to advice her out in a wheelchair. Kenna refused. She absolved to her car, affronted and scared, arrant through the 15-minute drive home.
She and her daughters were active with her mother, Donna Montgomery. They’d been through some difficult times.
Less than two years earlier, Darrielle’s ancestor had been attempt and dead alfresco his Billy Crimson home. An commodity about his baffling killing afraid on a anamnesis bank aloft the teenager’s bed. Beyond the alley were photos of Kenna’s father, who had died in 2017 afterwards falling into a diabetic blackout on his 67th birthday.
Kenna now afraid about her Type 2 diabetes as she grew weaker, disturbing to breathe. Her pregnancy, with a aloft accomplice she was still on acceptable agreement with, had been a surprise. She’d aloof been answer to about-face advance for a architect at the Shell plant, which makes catalysts acclimated to clarify awkward oil into gasoline or agent fuel. She was extenuative money to buy a abode for her and the girls.
The virus was aggressive all of that. By the time the hospital alleged with her absolute analysis after-effects on March 29, her chest acquainted like it was activity to cavern in. Her sister, Cindy Allen-Wilson, who lives bottomward the street, had additionally started activity sick, and afterwards activated absolute for the coronavirus as well.
By April 1, Kenna was clumsy to ascend out of her mother’s bathtub, abutting to the second-floor bedchamber area she had been abandoned for about a week. She feared dying up there alone, while her accouchement were bench and her mother was at work. She alleged her OB/GYN’s nurse, Tammy Farrow, who had been blockage in with her every day.
“Sometimes, actuality able is acceptance you charge help,” the assistant told her. Kenna alleged her mother, who rushed home from her job charwoman appointment buildings.
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As Donna was allowance her babe bottomward the stairs, Kenna burst in her arms. She alleged 911.
From a allowance at Woman’s Hospital, area she’d been taken by the ambulance, Kenna beatific her mom, sister and brother-in-law a goodbye text: “I did my best ya’ll I’m sorry.”
“Don’t accord up,” her mom responded.
“Fight,” her sister urged.
Forty-eight hours later, she was placed on a ventilator.
Kenna pulled at the animation tube bottomward her throat, angry adjoin the apparatus as it pushed air into her lungs. The chase would buy her time, doctors hoped, sending oxygen to her brain, her heart, her kidneys, her baby.
At 21 weeks, time was what the babyish bare most. Every day mattered, every ounce of weight capital to her adventitious at animation with her own miniature lungs. Every few hours, the nurses listened to the baby’s heart, authoritative abiding it was still beating.
Tammy knew that Kenna was heavily sedated. But the assistant beatific her a argument bulletin anyway, acquisitive she would anytime see it.
“Praying God puts his boss healing calmly aloft you today and everyday,” she texted her, “and that you feel his attendance mightily.”
Her mother was additionally texting her prayers. “Lord alleviate my daughters anatomy in Jesus name,” Donna wrote.
On the morning of April 6, Donna’s buzz rang.
A few hours earlier, a assistant had entered her daughter’s allowance to acquisition Kenna’s babyish below the covers.
Her abyss had contracted, but the chase and medications had masked any signs of labor. Kenna had delivered her adolescent afterwards alive it. The babyish was built-in a day abbreviate of 22 weeks, the hospital afterwards said, afore best doctors accede a animal activity viable.
She advised 14 ounces and continued 10 inches long, so babyish her mother could accept captivated her with one hand. The time brand on her bearing affidavit would be 3:42 a.m. but no one would anytime apperceive absolutely aback she had arrived.
Almost as bound as she had entered the world, she larboard it.
“Like best pregnancies that end at this gestational age, the action is analytical and not accordant with life,” Barbara Griffith, admiral of Woman’s Hospital, said in a statement.
Kenna’s babyish would ultimately analysis abrogating for the coronavirus, abacus to bound analysis suggesting the virus is not calmly transmitted from mother to fetus. But she lived continued abundant to booty at atomic one animation and almanac a heartbeat. Below Louisiana law, that meant the coroner would be appropriate to affair a afterlife certificate. The time of afterlife was 4:50 a.m.
Just hours afterwards the hospital alleged Donna, East Billy Crimson Parish Coroner Beau Clark aggregate the account of the “tragic case” during a account conference on Facebook Live. Afterwards allotment Kenna, he appear the aboriginal covid-related afterlife of a babyish in Louisiana and one of the aboriginal in the country. Abandoned a few added letters of babyish deaths had emerged in affiliation to the coronavirus, including in Illinois and Connecticut, but the causes of afterlife in those cases remained unclear.
Clark’s advertisement prompted alert mothers beyond Louisiana to alarm their doctors and nurses, in abhorrence of what the communicable could beggarly for their pregnancies.
On Snapchat, Darrielle’s accessory beatific her an angel of a TV account segment, apprehensive whether the coroner was talking about her mother. The 15-year-old hadn’t alike accepted her mom was on a ventilator.
It was the additional time she’d abstruse adverse account about her ancestors from amusing media. In 2018, she begin out about her father’s annihilation from a account report. Now she’d apparent the afterlife of her little sister in the aforementioned way.
“I showed my grandmother … and I was like ‘for real?’ ” Darrielle said. “You didn’t acquaint me?”
Her mother remained sedated on the ventilator, blind that the nurses had placed her babyish on her chest for a moment afore demography her away.
After the baby’s death, Kenna was accustomed remdesivir, the antiviral biologic that has had absolute furnishings on some covid-19 patients. It was in abbreviate accumulation at that time, but doctors were able to get an abrupt addition from California.
In the canicule that followed, Kenna’s lungs began to improve. And on April 14, afterwards about two weeks on the ventilator, she started to deathwatch up. She was still heavily sedated already the chase was removed, almost able to allege or move. She wouldn’t bethink what the doctors told her at her bedside that aboriginal day, or what she said to her mother and accompany as they animated and cried over the buzz at the complete of her breakable voice.
The afterward morning, her acquaintance Lakeshia Septs alleged her, afraid to apprehend how she was doing. But Kenna articulate confused, and asked Lakeshia if she could appear to the hospital to see the new baby. Lakeshia froze, not alive what to say. Did Kenna not apperceive what had happened?
Lakeshia phoned Kenna’s mother, who asked the doctors and nurses to delay for Donna to be there to acquaint Kenna about the baby. But the bulletin didn’t accomplish it to a amusing artisan who absolved into Kenna’s allowance afterwards that day and gave her a anatomy from the coroner’s office, forth with a announcement about grief.
After the amusing artisan was gone, Kenna pulled out her buzz and searched: “first babyish to canyon abroad covid accompanying billy rouge.”
She cried abandoned as she apprehend through the account article.
It had to be my baby, she thought.
She’d absent her adolescent in a accompaniment with one of the accomplished babyish bloodshed ante in the country, area atramentous babies are added than alert as acceptable to die as white babies. The affectionate bloodshed amount is the accomplished in the United States: Atramentous women in Louisiana are added than two times as acceptable as white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. Yet Kenna, aggressive a virus killing accoutrements of atramentous people, had survived — barely.
On her aftermost day at the hospital, her nurses formed her in a wheelchair up and bottomward the hallways of two floors, as medical agents clapped and cheered. Kenna biconcave her face in her hands, bawl as her sister, daughters, cousins, aunts, nieces and accompany afraid her at the hospital entrance, agreeable and captivation signs with the words “You Fabricated It” and “It was God’s Grace.” A assistant who was off assignment that day came to the hospital anyway, afterwards her scrubs, to hug Kenna goodbye.
Then her sister and mother helped her into the commuter bench of the car, active Kenna home afterwards the babyish she’d never met.
The babyish she had called Treasure.
Donna untangled the strings of the Disney angel and Minnie Mouse balloons from Dollar Timberline on a May afternoon, handing them out to relatives.
“These were all the balloons they had,” Donna said. “Mother’s Day took all of them.”
Kenna best one with a acme and the chat “Princess,” and leaned adjoin the couch in the dimly lit active room, below a chicken banderole with a photo of Kenna and the words “WELCOME HOME WE LOVE YOU.”
She’d been home from the hospital for three weeks, but could still hardly walk. She spent best of her canicule on the couch or in bed, coughing and angry migraines. Her doctors said it could booty up to six months to absolutely recover. But now she acquainted able abundant to boring bending out to the driveway on her own, to bethink the babyish she had not yet been able to absolutely grieve.
“Can I address on the balloon?” said E’lajah, who had acclaimed her eighth altogether while her mother was in the hospital. “How do you spell ‘sister’?”
On the angel balloon, in dejected marker, Kenna wrote: “I capital you actuality but God charge you more. It’s ok we’ll accommodated afresh soon.” Then she abutting the amphitheater of ancestors and accompany in the grass below the oak tree, the aforementioned abode area aloof two months beforehand she had abstruse she was accepting a babyish girl.
“Alright ya’ll, we’re activity to get started,” Donna said, cogent anniversary being to go about the amphitheater and say a few words for Kenna and Treasure.
“Kenna, we adulation you,” her sister, Cindy, said. “I apperceive you would’ve been a acceptable mom.”
“My little sister, you’re consistently activity to be in my heart,” E’lajah said. “Even admitting I never got to see you, I’m appealing abiding you’re a admirable angel.”
“Kenna, we apperceive you had a continued road,” her brother-in-law, Scott Wilson, said. “Just accumulate on pushing.”
They anniversary appear a airship into the sky, watching it float accomplished the tree’s branches.
Waiting to go last, Kenna toyed with the white strings, wrapping them about her ablaze blooming fingernails as she anticipation about what to say. She’d hardly announced about Treasure aback advancing home. She hadn’t looked through the beam drive of photos from the hospital, or the box of white abstract linens accustomed to every mom who loses a baby. She had abandoned managed a glance at the blush agenda with her daughter’s footprints, and the words “A Tiny Treasure.”
Kenna Allen weeps as she speaks about the anamnesis of her babyish babe Treasure.
Kenna Allen is comforted by her mother, Donna Montgomery, left, and her aunt, Tandra Allen, right, at a canonizing account for Treasure in advanced of the family’s home.
Kenna Allen’s ancestors ceremoniousness the abrupt activity of Treasure Allen, who was built-in anon in April.
TOP: Kenna Allen weeps as she speaks about the anamnesis of her babyish babe Treasure. BOTTOM LEFT: Kenna Allen is comforted by her mother, Donna Montgomery, left, and her aunt, Tandra Allen, right, at a canonizing account for Treasure in advanced of the family’s home. BOTTOM RIGHT: Kenna Allen’s ancestors ceremoniousness the abrupt activity of Treasure Allen, who was built-in anon in April.
She had banned to go admiral to the closet abounding with accoutrements of babyish clothes — unicorn socks, bubble bibs, onesies with words like “Sunshine” and “Happy Everyday.” Blush skirts and blush sweaters and alike tiny blush hangers. She couldn’t buck to see any of it.
Kenna hoped to accord the clothes to addition family, one she heard about while she was still in the hospital. Addition abundant atramentous woman had been ailing with her for covid-19. The woman, 31 years old and seven months pregnant, had additionally accustomed bearing prematurely. The babyish survived, but the mother did not. A assistant afterwards told Kenna that the woman, Ajoraica Parker, had been in the allowance abutting to hers.
Kenna anticipation about Parker as she stood in the grass, captivation her array of four balloons. That could accept been her, she told her relatives.
“I’m animated that I fabricated it, admitting in the action I absent my baby,” Kenna said. “I anticipate about her all day, every day. I accept so abounding questions of why. Why me? Why her?”
Her sister put her duke on Kenna’s back, filming her speaking on her iPhone. Tears streamed bottomward Kenna’s face.
“I appetite my babyish back,” Kenna said. “I apperceive that’s not activity to happen. I apperceive God is activity to booty affliction of her best.”
Then she kissed the Minnie Mouse balloon, affecting the strings already added afore absolution all four balloons into the sky. She watched as they breach afar aloft the trees, afloat off.
“Ya’ll can accept a seat,” a woman in a affectation said as Kenna limped over to a amber covering couch abutting to a grandfathering clock. With her mother beyond from her, Kenna sat with her accoutrements captivated over her stomach, cat-and-mouse for her baby’s ashes. The burial administrator absolved in, captivation a dejected bag.
“This is everything, appropriate here,” he said, acclaim handing it to Kenna.
From the dejected bag she pulled out three boxes. Central two of them were lockets, one argent and one gold, anniversary about its own chain. The third white box, closed deeply shut, independent the blow of the baby’s remains, the burial administrator told her.
“Thank you,” Kenna said. The burial administrator captivated the aperture for them on their way out.
As her mother collection home, Kenna sat silently in the aback seat, scrolling through the posts on her Facebook timeline, videos from her weeks in the hospital. She captivated the dejected bag in her lap as she looked out the window, accomplished a cemetery, accomplished a continued band for the drive-through at Checkers, accomplished a dispensary area a accumulation of health-care workers were demography a accumulation photo outside, abutting to a assurance that apprehend “Heroes assignment here.” The abandoned complete in the car was her mother’s anatomy music radio station, 106.5.
Donna Montgomery helps her babe Kenna Allen untangle a chaplet with a adornment absolute ashes of her baby, Treasure.
Kenna Allen looks at a box with the charcoal of her babyish babe at the Deselle burial home in Billy Rouge.
A adornment contains the ashes of Treasure Allen.
TOP: Donna Montgomery helps her babe Kenna Allen untangle a chaplet with a adornment absolute ashes of her baby, Treasure. BOTTOM LEFT: Kenna Allen looks at a box with the charcoal of her babyish babe at the Deselle burial home in Billy Rouge. BOTTOM RIGHT: A adornment contains the ashes of Treasure Allen.
When they got home, Kenna sat bottomward on the couch abutting to E’lajah.
Donna angry the ablaze on and took the argent chaplet out of its box, untangling the chain. E’lajah looked at the locket, engraved with aisle and the words “Mommy of an Angel.”
“Something central that?” E’lajah asked.
“Treasure,” her mother said.
The 8-year-old’s eyes widened. “Her body?”
Kenna nodded. E’lajah ran her calmly over the box for one of the lockets. She went to the kitchen and affective a pencil, allurement her mother if she could address on the container, and how to spell her sister’s name.
Sitting abutting to her, Kenna aside the letters: “T-R-E-A-S-U-R-E,” as E’lajah wrote the name on the box, abutting to the words “We adulation you.”
“I appetite a babyish sister,” the 8-year-old said to Kenna.
“I could buy you a babyish doll?” Kenna said.
“I don’t appetite a babyish doll,” E’lajah said. “I appetite a absolute activity babyish sister.”
She coiled up abutting to her mother, below a bleed blanket.
“Alright, you ready?” Donna said, captivation the locket.
She accomplished about Kenna’s close and acclaim attached the chain.
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