Allie Guidry

Allie Guidry

When Michael Conish left the hospital Wednesday morning, he had good reason to be hopeful.

He envisioned a future in which his pregnant fiance would once again start breathing on her own and return home to regain her strength with their beautiful daughter still growing inside her.

Her doctors had hinted such a future was possible, their voices now filled with cautious optimism after weeks of wariness and doubt. But less than 24 hours later, her lungs collapsed.

The end was near.

Conish rushed back to the hospital, where he learned he had become a father.

He gazed in disbelief at the smallest bundle of new life making her unexpected entrance into the world. Then he said goodbye to her mom.

Allie Guidry, 29, had tested positive for coronavirus and was admitted to Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge last month, relatives said. She was about 20 weeks pregnant at the time.

Guidry died Thursday morning after her doctors delivered the baby while performing CPR, according to her family. Madaline Guidry Conish weighed just 2 pounds at birth and remains in the neonatal intensive care unit. She was born almost four months early.

"Thank god we have Madaline because we could have lost her too," said Denise Boudreaux, Guidry's mother. "She has a long road ahead."

Boudreaux said her granddaughter is in stable condition but her lungs aren't fully developed yet, so for the time being "she's on a ventilator just like her mom was."

Guidry was admitted to the hospital after she tested positive for coronavirus and started having trouble breathing. Her family said she was healthy, did not have high blood pressure or diabetes and her pregnancy had been without complications.

Experts are still struggling to understand how coronavirus impacts pregnant women. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that pregnancy had been added to the list of conditions that might cause increased risk for severe illness from coronavirus.

Officials cited a new report that suggests pregnant women who test positive are more likely to require intensive care, including mechanical ventilation, though it's not exactly clear why.

Not long after the pandemic arrived in Louisiana, a pregnant coronavirus patient went into preterm labor while on a ventilator and delivered her child at just under 22 weeks. The infant didn't survive. 

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Guidry at first received oxygen treatment, then was placed on a ventilator about two weeks before her death, according to her family. She was heavily sedated for most of that time, including several days when she was unconscious, which meant family members couldn't communicate with her at all.

But in the days before her death, the doctors had started weaning her off the sedatives in hopes that ultimately she could be removed from the ventilator, Boudreaux said. She was then able to understand conversation around her and squeeze someone's hand or blink to communicate. She even tried writing notes but struggled to hold a pen because her muscles were so weak from the sedation.

On the day before she died, Guidry had written a note to one of her doctors: "Home?"

"She wanted to know when she was coming home," her mom said. "We all thought she was coming home. We were not prepared for this, not at all."

Boudreaux described her daughter's final moments, when she was suddenly faced with saying goodbye to her child.

"She still had a heartbeat when we went in the room. They gave us chairs to sit in," she said, pausing to collect herself and steady her voice. "So I held her hand while she took her last breath."

Guidry is one of the youngest people lost to coronavirus in the Baton Rouge area, where the death toll is now approaching 300 parishwide. Most victims have been older people, many with serious underlying health conditions. 

In addition to her infant daughter, Guidry left behind an 8-year-old son. The family is now struggling to scrape together enough money to cover unexpected funeral costs and medical bills, still wondering how someone so young and vibrant was taken from them so soon.

She had an infectious smile and warm personality that made people want to be her best friend right away, Boudreaux said. Conish described her as "an angel on earth."

Both said they hope people take this disease seriously and understand that younger generations aren't safe.

Public health experts have been sending the same message, especially as Louisiana testing data shows rising case counts among people in their teens and 20s. State officials decided earlier this week to slow the reopening process in part because of those alarming trends.

"Don't take your life for granted," Boudreaux said. "Love every day because nothing is certain."

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