Victorious Victoria: The journey of one pregnant woman from Florence County who almost died of COVID-19 |

Another thick tube then carried that blood from the machine to her jugular vein, which in turn delivered it to her heart. The process bypassed her sick lungs, allowing them to rest and, hopefully, heal.

But Kelehear remained critically ill.

In a room near her, a 24-year-old woman who came from the same Florence hospital also lingered on a ventilator battling COVID-19. Until she died.

Meeting Delaney

Near the hospital horseshoe, Kelehear’s body shudders − chest heaving, knee jiggling − as she reaches out two shaky arms. Her mother sets Delaney onto her lap.

For a moment, Kelehear can only cry, an all-over, body-heaving release of longing.

Her arms remain weak, so she cannot clutch Delaney to her chest or lips. Instead, she cradles her newborn with one semi-limp arm, the baby’s head resting near a tattoo of a cross. With her other hand, she touches Delaney’s bare arm, her head, her cheeks, her legs, as if she cannot believe the tiny thing isn’t a doll.

She thinks Delaney looks perfect.

Kelehear’s mother leans over to kiss her forehead. Parkhurst stands beside her wearing a black-and-white checkered facemask. Seagraves, the nurse, observes with gloved hands raised, one hawk eye on her patient, the other on the machinery. Delaney slumbers through it all.