Auburn, NY — Kaylee Gabak was looking forward to the birth of her first child.
On Christmas Day, she went into labor. She and her fiancé rushed to the hospital where, during admission, she was given a routine test for the coronavirus. She tested positive.
The next day, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Charlotte.
She and the baby came home briefly days later, but Gabak was soon readmitted to Auburn Community Hospital when she had trouble breathing. She was then transferred to Upstate University Hospital.
Gabak, 24, is now in critical condition, sedated and on an ECMO machine, which uses a pump to circulate blood to bypass the heart and lungs.
“We just want her to come home safe and sound,’’ said her fiancé, Cody Clink.
Her mother, Cortney Haberlau, said she’s confident her daughter will recover and come home to her baby and fiancé.
“It’s so hard not to be with her,’’ she said. “This all just happened so fast.’’
The ordeal began Dec. 16, which was Gabak’s last shift at The Commons on St. Anthony, an Auburn nursing home, before she would go out on maternity leave. The certified nursing assistant was asked to work on another floor to help a patient get into bed.
Shortly before she finished her 3 to 11 p.m. shift, Gabak’s supervisor told her the patient she’d had contact with had tested positive for the coronavirus. Her family said they can’t be sure, but they believe that’s where she got the virus.
A worried Gabak texted her mom and then made sure to change her scrubs and wash up thoroughly.
The next day, she seemed fine, and baked Christmas cookies with her mom. But early Christmas Eve morning, she began complaining that she felt nauseous, Haberlau said. She and Cody figured it must be pre-baby stomach troubles.
On Christmas morning, the day she was due, Gabak and Cody had a breakfast pizza with her mom. Around 6:30 p.m., Gabak’s water broke and she and Cody went to the hospital.
After testing positive for the virus and being admitted, Gabak’s breathing was slightly labored. The hospital did a chest X-ray, which showed pneumonia, her family said.
Gabak was in labor for the next 20 hours or so, and delivered 7-pound, 10-ounce Charlotte at 2:55 p.m. Dec. 26.
“It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced,” Cody said.
Gabak stayed in the hospital until Monday, Dec. 28, when she was released with an antibiotic. Gabak and Cody were elated to learn Charlotte was healthy, tested negative for Covid and could come home too. Cody also tested negative for the virus.
“We were a little worried because Kaylee had the breathing trouble, but they said it was OK to go home,’’ he said.
On Dec. 29, Cody said he was in the living room with Charlotte while Gabak was upstairs resting. She called her mom, and said it was getting really hard to breathe. Her mom called 911, and she was rushed to the Auburn hospital.
Gabak texted them from the hospital throughout the night. The next morning, she texted to say doctors said she might be hospitalized for the next five to 10 days.
“She said she thought she’d go nuts being away from her baby and us for that long,’’ her mom said. “She said she loved us, and we told her Charlotte was fine and to focus on getting better.”
The next day – Dec. 30 – the family was told doctors would have to intubate Gabak.
“I couldn’t stop crying,’’ Cody said. “Her mom and I just hugged each other, and we held Charlotte close.”
Later that day, Gabak was transferred to Upstate University Hospital, where she at first seemed to stabilize. She was sedated, and her breathing seemed to improve slightly, Cody said.
She then took a turn for the worse, and they were told she had to be placed on an ECMO machine.
Her family was shocked because Gabak has been a healthy person and had no underlying conditions before getting the virus.
“It’s so devastating,’’ her mom said. “We know she’s fighting so hard. Charlotte is such a good baby and she doesn’t fuss at all. But she needs her mom, she said.
“We just know she’s going to make it,’’ she said. “She’s so young.”
Gabak and Cody, a custodian in the Auburn city schools, had planned to get married this fall but put off the wedding due to the pandemic. They’ve been together for three years.
Cody said he knows Gabak wants to be with her newborn, and with him at home.
The hospital contacts the family with steady updates, about every six hours.
Her family talks to her daily on an iPad, telling her how much they love her and how much her baby girl needs her, and misses her. Jackson, 9, her brother, often reads a book to Gabak on Facetime.
“We call and within five minutes, we can talk to her,’’ Cody said. “Anything we can do to get her to hear our voices. I tell her all about Charlotte. How she eats a lot, has nice poopy blowouts and sleeps like a log. I tell her how much she misses her mom.
“We want her to keep hearing our voices,’’ he said.
“She knows how much we love her,’’ Gabak’s mom said.
The two say they haven’t been told how long Gabak could be on the ECMO machine, but they hope she can come home soon.
“It’s not if she comes home, it’s when,’’ Cody said.
A family friend has started a fundraising campaign for Gabak to help with expenses for the family.
MORE ON CORONAVIRUS
Coronavirus in NY: Cases, maps, charts and resources
Syracuse schools stay remote because hundreds of kids, teachers have coronavirus or are quarantined
Onondaga County plans to vaccinate up to 6,000 against Covid this week
New York has first confirmed case of UK Covid-19 variant, Cuomo says
Complete coronavirus coverage on syracuse.com
Elizabeth Doran covers education, suburban government and development, breaking news and more. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact her anytime at 315-470-3012 or email [email protected]