Miracles Happen: Mom, Baby Meet for First Time at DHMC After Two-month COVID-19 Fight

Macenzee Keller holds her baby boy, Zack, with her mother, Brandi Milliner, at her side, in a hospital bed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Being as sick as I was, was definitely scary, and I don't want anybody to have to go through that.

Macenzee Keller

After a two-month battle with COVID-19, 20-year-old Macenzee Keller from Manchester, NH, was able to meet her two-month old son, Zack, for the first time at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon on February 3, 2022.

Days after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and shortly before her due date, Keller was rushed to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, where she was put on a ventilator and her baby was born via caesarean section on November 28, 2021. Unconscious and critically ill, Keller was transferred to DHMC before she was able to meet her baby.

“It’s a new experience, but I’m excited to become a mom,” Keller said after meeting her son for the first time. “He was big!”

For video of the Kellers’ reunion, click here.

Keller was not vaccinated against COVID-19 when she contracted the virus. She was planning to wait to get vaccinated until after she delivered, but after the ordeal she endured, she now wishes she had been, and wants to encourage others who haven’t been vaccinated yet to do so as soon as possible.

“Now I'm definitely getting vaccinated,” Keller said. “Definitely get vaccinated. Being as sick as I was, was definitely scary, and I don't want anybody to have to go through that.”

At DHMC, Keller received lifesaving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a highly specialized blood oxygenation treatment used on seriously ill patients, for 47 days.

“She had a very extended course on the ECMO circuit, requiring a lot longer than we’ve seen in the past,” said nurse Ciaran Moloney, BSN, RN, a member of Keller’s care team. “There were times where we were wondering how or if she would be able to recover, but over the last few weeks, she’s made an amazing recovery.”

Keller’s recovery and reunion with Zack has provided much needed positive news and inspiration for pandemic-weary DHMC providers and staff.

“In the medical (intensive care unit), we have a lot of difficult and often tragic stories, and so when we get one like this, where someone has made such an amazing recovery and gets to meet their child for the first time, it’s a real special one for us, and one that really makes it easier to come into work the next day,” Moloney said.

“Never give up hope,” said Brandi Milliner, Keller’s mother, who cared for baby Zack while her daughter was in the hospital. “Miracles happen every single day, and she’s ours.”

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock

DARTMOUTH-HITCHCOCK HEALTH (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across Northern New England. D-H provides access to more than 2,400 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named in 2019 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 13 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health also includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; affiliated member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.