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The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 11,300 people across Western New York. It has also claimed the lives of at least 762 people in our region. But those numbers alone do not adequately tell the story of struggle and loss in Western New York.Each Thursday in August and September, WBFO will put faces—and voices—on the COVID-19 crisis, telling personal stories of some of the individuals whom we have lost and others who survived the disease.These intimate interviews illustrate the widespread grief and suffering the coronavirus pandemic has brought to Western New York, as well as the resilience sprouting in its wake. The stories will also serve as a tribute to all those whose lives have been taken or altered deeply by the virus.A small reporting team led by WBFO’s Kyle Mackie has been interviewing COVID-19 survivors and individuals who have lost family members or loved ones. If you have a COVID-19 story to share, please email Mackie at kmackie@wbfo.org

The Toll: COVID-19-positive mom delivers ‘little COVID survivor’

Left: Courtesy of Kate Glaser/Sarah Bridgeman Photography; Right: Courtesy of Kate Glaser
Kate Glaser, of Amherst, contracted COVID-19 during her 39th week of pregnancy in early July and delivered her infant daughter, Isla, while she was COVID-19 positive.

Similar to older adults and people with underlying medical conditions, pregnant people face a greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than the general public. This week on “The Toll,” WBFO’s Kyle Mackie reports the story of an Amherst woman who contracted COVID-19 during her last week of pregnancy earlier this summer.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 12,420 people across Western New York. The virus has also claimed the lives of at least 772 people in our region. WBFO’s “The Toll: Western New York Stories of Loss & Survival in a Pandemic” will air weekly on Thursdays during Morning Edition in August and September, telling some of the personal stories behind those numbers.

Kate Glaser did everything she was supposed to do to protect herself when the coronavirus pandemic hit, around the time she was about five months pregnant.

“I thought to myself, there's no way I have COVID because I have been self-isolating. I have been, you know, really kind of sticking to my house. We had Instacart [grocery] deliveries, my husband was shopping for anything we needed, and I really was just kind of going on walks with my kids,” Glaser said. “And I was always wearing a mask.”

Glaser, 32, is originally from North Tonawanda and now lives in Amherst. She’s the mother of three-year-old twins, so when she started to feel rundown in her final week of pregnancy in early July, she had plenty to blame it on. But then Glaser developed more flu-like symptoms, including aches and chills, a sore throat and 100-degree fever. That’s when her doctor insisted that she go to Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo for a COVID-19 test.

Credit Courtesy of Kate Glaser/Sarah Bridgeman Photography
Glaser tested positive for COVID-19 in early July, shortly after a maternity photo shoot with Buffalo photographer Sarah Bridgeman.

“Within an hour, they actually came down to the waiting room and they were in full PPE [personal protective equipment],” Glaser said. “So, I knew right then and there that I was positive for COVID.”

After months of being careful while both her pregnancy and the coronavirus pandemic wore on, Glaser said she was shocked as the healthcare workers sent her home to quarantine. And despite her fear that her illness would develop into a severe case, she said she struggled more mentally than physically over the next eight days of isolation from her husband and twins.

“Emotionally, it was very rough for me to have a positive diagnosis,” Glaser said. “Being 39 weeks pregnant, I felt very guilty as a mom. You know, even with all the caution I took, the virus still found me and it still infected me.”

Credit Courtesy of Kate Glaser
Glaser labored in a mask, while still COVID-19 positive, to deliver Isla at Sisters of Charity Hospital on July 11.

Glaser was also worried about her unborn daughter, who was originally due to arrive on her favorite holiday: July 4.

“I prayed that she would not come while I was self-isolating, because that would—that would actually be worse [rather] than better because I was still infectious. So, her chance of getting it would have been greater if she would have come during that self-isolation.”

Luckily, the baby waited. Isla Alice arrived by natural birth on July 11, about two weeks after Glaser tested positive for the virus.

“I had a very rough delivery [and] I had to deliver fully masked,” Glaser said, adding that she was grateful her husband tested negative for COVID-19 and was able to support her in the delivery room. Isla also tested negative for her first COVID-19 test at just two days old and has remained virus-free over the past six weeks.

Glaser said she’s now fully recovered from the virus herself and that she credits the medical workers at Buffalo OB/GYN and Sisters Hospital for both her health and her daughter’s safe delivery.

Credit Courtesy of Kate Glaser
Glaser said Isla tested negative for her first COVID-19 test at just two days old. She has remained virus-free over the past six weeks.

“They never flinched from fear when I was a COVID-positive mom coming into their delivery room. They all did what they needed to do to care for me [and] be compassionate,” she said. “It just gives you a newfound perspective about what our medical professionals are doing daily to care for those who are sick.”

Today, Glaser still isn’t sure how she came down with the virus. But with Western New York experiencing another uptick in COVID-19 cases, she said everyone needs to keep doing their part to protect the people they love.

Credit Courtesy of Kate Glaser
Isla’s older siblings—three-year old twins Greyson and Evelyn—welcomed her home from the hospital with snuggles and a Beatles song.

“My biggest thing is: Please mask up. Please care about others. We will get through this together. This pandemic has been so long, so far, and it's probably going to be even longer. But we all need to care about one another and wear our masks.”

Isla, meanwhile, is settling in nicely at home in Amherst, where her big sister Evelyn sang her a special song—“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles—the first time they met.

Asked how she’ll tell Isla about her birth and the coronavirus pandemic once she gets older, Glaser said their story is definitely unique.

“I think that she is the strongest baby to go through this and you know, she's a little COVID survivor. She's a fighter for sure,” Glaser said. “One day I'm going to be able to tell her that I went through a pandemic pregnant. I contracted COVID, but we both survived and we both are stronger now because of it.”

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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