‘She never left me’: Recovered COVID-19 mother, infant reunite with ICU nurse who provided help

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - McLeod Health hosted a reunion Wednesday morning between a new mother and the nurse that never left her side.

Shaquilla James gave birth to her first child and had to be intubated because of the novel coronavirus. James was the first pregnant COVID-19 patient that the McLeod hospital system had.

“It felt like God gave me a purpose, to share my story with everyone to let them know that this is real,” said James.

James had a fairly standard pregnancy without any complications. That was until she was just days away from giving birth.

“It all started with a cough that I had, which I thought was a bad sinus infection," said James. "When I went to the emergency room, they treated the cough, but it came back 10 times worse.”

Shaquillah tested positive for the coronavirus.

As soon as she gave birth to her first child, Aubrey, they were separated.

“At first I said, ‘No,’ but, I didn’t want nothing to happen to my baby," said James. "So, that was the last time I got to see her physically.”

Her condition got worse, and she was taken to the Intensive Care Unit to be put on a ventilator.

Her ICU nurse, Kelly Orton, stayed by her bedside as much as she could.

“I was scared," said Orton. "We don’t have pregnant or postpartum people very often so it was scary, but we pushed through together. I just knew what we had to do for this little one.”

After being intubated for several days, Shaquilla improved and doctors took the tube out.

Kelly wrote on a piece of paper during the process to ask if Shaquilla needed anything, and Shaquilla wrote, “Please, don’t leave me."

“We’re encouraged to minimize our time in the room because of the virus, but we stayed in there probably an hour and didn’t leave her side," said Orton.

James has now spent the last two weeks at home with Aubrey, and both are safe and healthy.

The traumatic experience has made being with her newborn even sweeter.

“I was just so happy that I got to hold my baby and look at her and see her and thank God that I’m here every day to take care of her," said James.

McLeod’s nurses all signed a baby book and gave it to James to read to baby Aubrey.

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