Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Long Road to COVID-19 Recovery
After the birth of her second daughter, Gracie, on April 2, Stephanie Melancon had two days at home with her family of four before their lives turned upside down.
“Stephanie started feeling bad, and by that evening, she could hardly walk. She had a 104.8 fever,” says Mike Melancon, Stephanie’s husband. At the direction of her doctor, Mike rushed Stephanie back to Woman’s Hospital.
Stephanie was initially diagnosed with viral pneumonia and a few days later tested positive for COVID-19. She ended up spending 52 days at Woman’s, experiencing a number of setbacks during her recovery, including a cardiac arrest and about six weeks on a ventilator. A tracheostomy was performed to help wean her off the ventilator, and Stephanie received a passy muir valve to allow her to speak. She was kept in a medically induced coma for much of her stay at Woman’s and experiences short-term memory loss from the sedation.
“It was pretty bad for a while,” Mike says. “Every day she would point to her stomach and ask if she’d had the baby or if anything had happened to the baby. Everything was so uncertain to her at that time.” Logging her daily achievements is helping strengthen Stephanie’s memory.
Stephanie hasn’t been able to see or hold her baby in more than two months. Stephanie is a nurse, so she knew she didn’t want her newborn exposed, even if Gracie had been allowed to visit.
Stephanie has been able to see her 11-year-old daughter Katelynn a couple times, but the family has remained predominantly apart since just after Gracie’s birth.
After being released from Woman’s, Stephanie moved to the Baton Rouge Rehabilitation Hospital, where she celebrated her 42nd birthday in June. She expects to be recovering at home by the time this is published. Mike says the care they have received has been outstanding. “I cannot say enough about the care we got at Woman’s,” he says. “We fell in love with everybody. It’s like we gained all-new family.”
The rest of the family remains healthy. “Gracie is doing tremendous,” Mike says. “She’s growing and healthy.” Stephanie jokes that Gracie is “a chunky monkey like her dad.”
Mike encourages others to take the risks of COVID-19 seriously. “We never thought it would happen to us,” he says. The Melancons don’t know exactly how Stephanie was exposed or why she got so sick, and they probably never will. Mike had mild symptoms when he lost his senses of smell and taste briefly before Gracie was born.
A silver lining has been the bond that Mike has forged with Gracie. “I got more than I bargained for when this went down,” he says. “I became Mr. Mom overnight. We’ve got two dogs and the two girls, so I’ve got my hands full.”
A machinist by trade, Mike hasn’t been able to work during the pandemic, and he does not expect to return to work until Stephanie is able to care for their girls herself. His sister has set up a Go Fund Me for them to help with medical and other bills at gofundme.com/f/magical-miracle-for-stephanie.