When five-day-old Nora Forrest was first hospitalized with COVID-19, her parents were unsure if she would survive.
“We weren’t sure if we would bring her home or bring home an empty car seat,” said her mother, Ceyda Alaf-Forrest.
Nora was a healthy full term baby when she was born on November 22. The next night, her mother started to feel sick. Then Nora’s father, grandmother and older sister fell ill.
The family had already undergone three COVID-19 tests and all of them came back negative. They suspected it would be the same, but booked testing anyway.
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Her parents took Nora to the Alberta Children’s Hospital when she had a fever the night of November 27.
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They were still there when their test results arrived the next morning via text message. The whole family was positive for COVID-19.
In the emergency room, doctors were debating whether to transfer Nora to intensive care or to a regular ward.
“Suddenly everything changed because the nurses got very nervous and started talking to each other faster,” Alaf-Forrest said.
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Nora was not breathing regularly. It was intended for intensive care.
“They were literally running around and bringing the baby to the little crib,” Alaf-Forrest said. “It made me think that’s it. She might not even be able to do it.
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It was difficult for Nora’s parents to watch the nurses try to draw blood from her tiny veins.
The baby was sedated while a breathing tube was inserted.
When Nora came over it was obvious from her flushed face that she was crying but the tube meant no one could hear her.
“It’s like watching a horror movie but the sound is silent,” her mother said. The baby was wrapped tightly to prevent it from grabbing the tube.
“They kept calling her ‘spirited’ in the hospital.
After about three or four days, Nora improved, although she was difficult. After a week, she was calmer and able to sleep.
With COVID-19 being a new virus, the medical team hasn’t had much research to inform their decision-making.
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Parents said they were impressed with how different specialists collaborated in Nora’s care and consulted a team in the United States more familiar with COVID-19 in infants.
“Everyone gets together and talks about what they see,” said Nora’s father, Ben Forrest. “It was pretty amazing.”
The hospital wanted as few COVID-19 positive people as possible in the hospital, so Nora’s father volunteered to go home while his wife stayed with her. When Alaf-Forrest was exhausted from lack of sleep, a nurse volunteered to rock the baby.
Nora was released on December 9 after nearly two weeks. Now she is gaining weight and is alert.
“We even get a smile from her sometimes,” Alaf-Forrest said.
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The parents and their 20-month-old daughter, Hazel, all got over their symptoms within a week.
Alaf-Forrest’s mother, who traveled from Turkey to help with the new baby, was hit hardest and took about 10 days to recover.
Forrest said he is preparing a “time capsule” of stories about Nora’s ordeal so that he can show them to her when she is older.
He said public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 can be troublesome, but they’re in place for a reason.
“We wouldn’t want anyone going through what we had to go through.”
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