A US Army combat veteran from Kentucky lost his life to the coronavirus two days after his son was born prematurely at the same hospital, according to a report.
Jeffery Michael Keene, 39, who served four tours of duty in the Middle East, and his wife, Nicole, were expecting their second child in December but he was born prematurely on Oct. 26, CNN reported.
Just days before the birth, Keene complained of a scratchy throat — and got tested along with his wife for COVID-19. Nicole tested negative within an hour, but her husband’s result came back positive.
“He got sick pretty quick. It was his fever that concerned me the most, with how high his fever was. It was 104.5,” Nicole, a respiratory therapist, told CNN about her husband, who was admitted to University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington.
“They started him right away on oxygen, and they moved him into the ICU fairly quickly after that. I got a call the next morning, saying that they wanted to intubate him already,” she said.
“And I just, I was terrified. And just knew that [when] you get on the ventilator and it’s really hard to get off with COVID,” Nicole added.
The couple decided to try less invasive methods before having to eventually intubate Keene.
“They put him on the BiPAP [machine], his anxiety was very high, very high. I mean he has PTSD. And he just really struggled,” Nicole said.
On the day she gave birth, Nicole got a call from Michael’s doctor, who told her his breathing tube would be removed.
“I thought the worst was over,” she recalled about the day in which she suffered complications in her 34th week of pregnancy.
“I just remember the panic. I just remember the doctor coming in and looking at me and saying, ‘We’re going have to take your baby right now.’ And I just could not understand that,” she told CNN.
Shortly thereafter, Michael Wesson was born unresponsive, but was resuscitated and transferred to a hospital with more specialized care – the same facility where his dad was fighting for his life.
At the doctor’s advice, Keene never knew his newborn was nearby.
“They had advised me to not tell my husband, because he was very on the edge of being re-intubated because his anxiety was really high. He was still struggling to breathe,” Nicole said.
In another roller-coaster moment two days later, Nicole got a visit from her husband’s doctor, who told her “he’d probably be able to leave the hospital in about two weeks [and] go to rehab facility.”
But hours later, Michael took a turn for the worse so Nicole rushed to his side wearing protective equipment just in time to hold his hand as he took his last breath.
“I just felt everything, all of our dreams, everything just like came out of me. I could just see our whole life just slipping away,” she told CNN.
The couple’s baby — who spent five weeks in the ICU before coming home with an oxygen tank — has a brain injury but the extent of it remains unknown.
Michael was laid to rest in Fort Jackson National Cemetery in South Carolina, near where his parents live.
“There’s a lot of guilt, like just living every day,” said Nicole, who relies on community support, through a GoFundMe page, and Social Security assistance because of her husband’s death.
“Even that I’m here and he’s not and the kids … just without their dad, growing up without him. He was an amazing man, amazing father,” she said.