COVID-19 separates new family


The Lichlyter family

LEBANON — The days following the birth of Jordan and Audrey Lichlyter’s twin sons — Porter and Sutton — should have been a time for the new family to be together. Instead, due to COVID-19, they were separated.

On the night of May 4, hours after giving birth to Porter and Sutton at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Carmel, Audrey woke up with trouble breathing and dizziness. She remembers feeling like she might pass out. She immediately called the nurses into her room, and they ran several tests, all of which came back normal. Then, Audrey’s gynecologist suggested they run a COVID-19 test. After waiting in her hospital room for four days to hear the results, news came that the test was positive, leading to a nearly two week separation that saw Audrey and Jordan — a Jasper native and son of Mike and Cindy Lichlyter — in quarantine at their home in Lebanon while their babies remained in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital.

“I was just completely in shock,” Audrey said. “I didn’t have any symptoms until that episode in the hospital.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in Indiana, Audrey had been labeled an at-risk pregnancy, so when the disease reached the state and restrictions went into place, she and Jordan followed them closely. She stayed home, with the exception of doctor appointments, while Jordan — who was working from home — took care of all the errands and shopping. Anytime he returned from a shopping trip, they wiped everything down with Clorox wipes.

When the couple arrived at the hospital on May 4 for a C-section, Audrey was 35 weeks pregnant, and they knew Porter and Sutton would need to spend some time in the NICU due to their size. They never expected to be unable to sit in the hospital with their sons.

When Audrey tested positive, Jordan and the twins automatically had to be tested as well. Their tests came back negative, but Jordan still had to quarantine. When Audrey was discharged from the hospital on May 8, she and Jordan left the hospital without Audrey having even met her sons.

Sutton and Porter

Back at their home, Audrey said, she filled her days with as much sleep as possible because if she wasn’t sleeping, she was likely crying. The only COVID-19 symptoms she ever had were those at the hospital before she was diagnosed.

The NICU nurses did their best to make Jordan and Audrey feel connected to their sons via photos, a few FaceTime calls and the private livestream of NICU beds the hospital sets up. Audrey is grateful to all the work they put in to help the four of them feel like a family while separated.

But it didn’t come close to what the Lichlyters hoped the first few weeks with their sons would be. Since Audrey was delivering at 35 weeks, the couple knew Porter and Sutton would need to spend some time in the NICU, but they expected to be able to visit and hold them. Having that taken away by COVID-19 was devastating.

“I was just so scared because they weren’t getting any bonding time with me,” Audrey said. “What if when I went back they wouldn’t recognize me?”

After 10 days in quarantine without symptoms, Audrey finally got to meet her sons. Donning a mask, she walked into the NICU where a nurse took her phone to video the meeting and snap photos. In one video, you can hear Audrey tear up as she finally meets her boys.

“It was awesome,” she said.

But it was also sad, she said, because Jordan was still at home under quarantine. Although Audrey could visit the boys after 10 days without symptoms, Jordan had to be quarantined for 14 days.

Even after Audrey was allowed to visit, it would still be a few days before Sutton and Porter could go home, though thankfully not due to anything COVID-19-related. Now, all four are at home and doing well, Audrey said, and no one has had any more COVID-19 symptoms. Still, they’re being extremely cautious. They rarely leave their home, and so far, only Audrey’s parents, who live in the area, have been allowed to meet Sutton and Porter. That was only after they tested negative for COVID-19. Mike and Cindy will likely get to meet their grandchildren for the first time on the Fourth of July — the boys’ two-month birthday.

“It’s definitely hard for them, but they understand,” Audrey said.

Right now, her biggest concern is that she, Jordan or one of the boys’ grandparents will have COVID-19, not know it and bring the disease near the boys. She wishes people better understood how easy it is to have the disease and not know it, and she encourages everyone to take the disease seriously.

“We got lucky,” she said. “It definitely could have been worse.”

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