After barely surviving COVID-19, mother now doesn’t recognize newborn

Surviving the coronavirus was just the start of the fight for Sylvia LeRoy.

The Brooklyn nurse was pregnant with her second child when she tested positive for the devastating disease in March. Today, against all odds, she’s alive and her baby girl is healthy — but after spending months clinging to life, LeRoy is still bedridden and can hardly speak.

Worst of all, she has no memory of even being pregnant with her now 3-month-old, Esther, due to the brain injury she suffered in the middle of the monthslong medical nightmare.

“We tell her, ‘Sylvia, you were ill, you had your baby, but you did really good — do you remember?’ And she shakes her head,” LeRoy’s sister, 41-year-old Shirley Licin, told The Post.

But even getting LeRoy, 35, to the point where she could communicate required a series of miracles that her family remains grateful for, “considering what she’s been through and considering what other families have lost to this disease,” Licin said. “I’m mourning the loss of the sister I had, but I still have her.”

The Post first shared LeRoy’s story back in April, when she was only just beginning to emerge from a vegetative state and in need of expensive, specialized care. As a result of the story and the support that followed, the family raised nearly $1 million on a GoFundMe page.

Licin said the money made the difference between her sister wasting away in a nursing home and now with the help of expert care, being home, with the hope of one day holding her daughter and telling her, “I love you.”

“It was a very dark, dark time and we still don’t know all of her outcomes,” Licin said through tears. “But her trajectory is so different now. What we’re seeing today is so vastly wonderful.”

On March 27, LeRoy was admitted to Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center in Brownsville — where she worked as a labor and delivery nurse, and where she’d given birth to her first child, Jeremiah, nearly three years ago. It’s also where she likely picked up COVID-19. She tested positive for the virus and was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where she was placed on a ventilator.

On April 9, doctors were able to remove the ventilator. But the hardest part was yet to come. Three days later, she suddenly went into cardiac arrest — doctors suspect that the thick, heavy fluids in her lungs — a consequence of COVID-19 — may have played a role.

She spent eight minutes without a heartbeat. Then, she was rushed to the delivery room.

Doctors delivered Esther at just 30 weeks. But the amount of time spent without oxygen left LeRoy with catastrophic brain damage, impacting everything from her motor function to her short-term memory.

“I just felt like it was the cruelest game life had ever played on me,” Licin said. “We were celebrating that she had made it, that her baby had made it. But then she went into cardiac arrest.”

As she slowly began to awaken from a vegetative state, her family could only visit her through video calls, due to the threat of spreading the virus in the hospital.

“I can’t tell you how many weeks we spent over video calling out her name,” Licin said. “But she couldn’t hear us — she wasn’t there.”

Despite a grim prognosis from doctors initially, LeRoy was able to enter a rehabilitation facility in Philadelphia, where she received occupational, physical and speech therapy — care she wouldn’t have been covered for under her insurance or workers’ compensation, Licin said.

On Thursday last week, LeRoy finally came home. She was moved into her sister’s home, where her husband, Jeffry, and their son, Jeremiah, are also staying with Licin’s three young daughters and husband. Licin is caring for Esther.

LeRoy can now lift her hands up, communicate with “yes” or “no” responses to questions, and give her family the same smirk she was known for before the tragedy struck.

Every day, her family reminds her what day it is, and that she’s home with her loving family — experts say the constant reinforcement can help to restore her short-term memory, Licin said.

As for Esther, who was born at just 3.5 pounds, she now weighs 10 pounds and is a “feisty, healthy, perfect baby,” Licin said. Recently, LeRoy used her newfound arm strength to touch her daughter’s face for the first time.

“She’s gotta have her babies around her, it encourages her to do more,” Licin said. “They have a big important role to play in her life.”

The LeRoy family believes that the current amount of money they’ve raised should be able to cover care costs for the next few months: “Insurance only covers six weeks of therapy,” Licin said.

“She’s gonna need several more months of that, just to hold herself up in a wheelchair,” let alone medical supplies, from adult diapers to equipment that can lift her out of bed. But it’s further than she could have gotten without the tens of thousands of supporters who helped her recover, said Licin.

“There’s still hope for Sylvia — every day we see changes,” she said. “She just needs a fighting chance.”

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