Overjoyed with optimism and excitement, Brianna Shelton was entering her third trimester when an unanticipated diagnosis significantly altered her pregnancy journey. Already given birth to her healthy son Beckett just 14 months prior, Brianna was well prepared for the arrival of her newborn baby. Brianna, and her husband Connor Shelton, planned to have their second child at home. They worked closely with a doula and midwife to map out every detail of their birth plan in anticipation for the big day.
One Monday evening, Brianna noticed that she was feeling much more lethargic than normal but associated her level of exhaustion with being 27 weeks pregnant. As the days progressed, Brianna noticed cold-like symptoms developing. With the global pandemic at the forefront of her mind, a feeling of fear and dread began to set in. This fear became reality when Brianna took a sip of grape juice and noticed that she had completely lost her sense of taste and smell. Knowing that this is an indicator of COVID-19, Brianna booked a COVID-19 test with Kamloops’ public health unit. The next day, Interior Health confirmed that she tested positive and instructed her to self-isolate. Separated from her husband and child, Brianna confined herself to the basement of their house to protect her family. Terrified, lonely, and overwhelmed with concern for her unborn baby, Brianna stated that, “Physically it may have felt like a bad cold, but mentally it was so much harder.”
Not long after Brianna’s diagnosis, Connor and Beckett displayed symptoms of COVID-19 and upon testing, received confirmation that they too, contracted the virus. With the entire family in quarantine, the Shelton’s did everything in their power to love and support each other through their mutual experience.
With Brianna’s strong belief that “everything in this world happens for a reason”, she bravely shared her COVID-19 story on social media and made a point to answer people’s questions and educate others. By turning this adversity into a learning opportunity, Brianna touched the lives of many. She addressed the stigma associated with being infected and reinforced how important it was to spread kindness in a time of such uncertainty.
As the Shelton family recovered and everyone was released from quarantine, Brianna still had concerns about how the virus may have impacted her developing baby. She stayed in close contact with her midwife and sought out additional medical support resulting in greater observation of the pregnancy. Every four weeks Brianna went in for an ultrasound to monitor the baby’s growth and development. With her consent, she was enrolled in a multi-provincial observational study through BC Women’s Hospital to help better understand the epidemiology of COVID-19 during pregnancy and provide critical data to inform recommendations for pregnant women and their infants. During this time, she learned that the placenta protects babies from contracting COVID-19 during gestation. Research has determined that the placenta of pregnant women who have previously had COVID-19 ages more rapidly. This was exactly what doctors were predicting for Brianna. As a result, the BC Women’s Hospital recommended that she be induced early. This meant that Brianna and Connor would not be able to have the homebirth they envisioned. However, there was no hesitation in doing what was best for their baby. Once the decision was made, Brianna was given Cervidil and in less than 24 hours the courageous young couple found themselves in the midst of active labour at the Royal Inland Hospital.
On January 24th, 2021, at 1:06 pm, Cooper Earl Shelton was born, weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces. During labour, there were no complications and within no time, baby Cooper was nestled in his parent’s arms surrounded by unconditional love and attention. Although everything did not go as planned and giving birth during a pandemic was much different than their previous experience, Brianna and Connor felt nothing but gratitude in their hearts.
Brianna and Connor recall that, “the nurses and medical staff at RIH were absolutely amazing.” Brianna explains, “Everyone treated my family with humility and compassion. Never once were we shunned or judged because of our previous encounter with COVID-19. Instead, they treated us like their top priority. We truly received exceptional care.”
Brianna’s parents, Steve and Ladonne Davidson, recognize that the Royal Inland hospital has played an integral role in their family’s life throughout the years. Their two children, and now all of their grandchildren were born at RIH. In 2020, the philanthropic couple generously committed to donating $100,000 towards the new Patient Care Tower. Steve explains, “We hope that the example of our gift will inspire others to give back.” At the heart of Kamloops, RIH is a place where life begins for many.