N.Y. volunteer firefighter gives birth 2 1/2 months early battling COVID-19

The son of Firefighter Lynn Carpenter and Firefighter-EMT Austin Carpenter was born while Lynn was on a ventilator, fighting for her life


Catie O'Toole
syracuse.com

Syracuse, N.Y. — Newlyweds Lynn and Austin Carpenter had recently moved into an apartment and were expecting their first child when she suddenly became ill.

Lynn, a volunteer firefighter and patient care aide at a group home, was told she had pneumonia when she went to a hospital Sept. 1 and was sent home, her father-in-law Richard Carpenter said.

It’s likely Dawsyn Carpenter, born weeks early, won’t be able to go home until he’s at least 35 weeks gestational age.
It’s likely Dawsyn Carpenter, born weeks early, won’t be able to go home until he’s at least 35 weeks gestational age. (Austin Carpenter/Facebook)

Two days later, Austin, a full-time EMT and volunteer firefighter in Dryden, noticed his wife wasn’t breathing right. Her blood pressure and respirations were dropping, and she was pale and sweating. An ambulance brought her to Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca.

Lynn, 21, tested positive for Covid-19 and was put on a ventilator.

She was airlifted to Crouse Hospital in Syracuse later that evening on Sept. 3. She still had 2 1/2 months until her Nov. 18 due date. But five days later, on Sept. 8, doctors asked her husband for permission to perform an emergency C-section, his parents said.

Lynn’s body was starting to shut down so it could compensate for her fetus, her in-laws said.

“... In order to save both (Lynn and the baby), they had to take the baby,” said Austin’s mother, Cindy Carpenter. “They figured it would be better for both of them so they could recuperate separately and she could get the medications she needed that she couldn’t get because of being pregnant.”

Doctors told Austin it was “a matter of life or death,” Richard Carpenter said.

“They told him he could lose one or both,” Cindy Carpenter added. “It was very scary.”

On Sept. 8, Lynn gave birth to a 3-pound, 12-ounce baby boy who was 12 inches long. It was Austin’s first day out of quarantine so he was there for the birth, but he couldn’t hold his son, Dawsyn Lynn Avery Carpenter.

Immediately after the birth, Dawsyn was brought to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and Lynn went to an intensive care unit for COVID patients, her father-in-law said.

Austin, 24, drives each morning from Enfield, about 10 miles west of Ithaca, to the hospital in Syracuse to be by his wife’s side and hold his baby boy. He took photos of Dawsyn and showed them to his wife as she lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to the ventilator.

Lynn was heavily sedated the first week she was in the hospital, but then only partially sedated the following two weeks. She used a whiteboard to write messages when she was awake, but couldn’t speak.

On Saturday, Lynn came off the ventilator.

On Sunday, she held her baby for the first time.

“She had tears of joy,” Cindy Carpenter said after seeing a photo that captured the moment.

Lynn can now talk, but only in a whisper. On Monday, she refused pain medications and said she wants to start walking, her father-in-law said.

“She wants to get home with her family,” he said.

But the family isn’t sure when she and the baby can go home yet.

Dawsyn weighs just over 5 pounds now. He’s healthy, but still in an incubator at times, his grandparents said. It’s likely Dawsyn won’t be able to go home until he’s at least 35 weeks gestational age, said Richard Carpenter, who is also an EMT.

Based on what the family has been told, chances are Lynn will remain in the hospital after her baby goes home. While Lynn continues to recover, the Dryden community is rallying around the family.

The Neptune Hose Co. No. 1 of Dryden, the fire department where both Lynn and Austin volunteer, is hosting a benefit chicken barbecue starting at 3:30 p.m. Friday for the couple and their newborn.

Other first responders and a family member have given Austin gas gift cards to help him get to and from Syracuse. A family friend had food delivered to the couple’s apartment. Austin’s parents and Lynn’s mom, Jennifer Spinner, are helping care for the couple’s two dogs.

A firefighter friend created a GoFundMe with hopes of raising $100,000 to help pay the couple’s bills. Anyone who wants to send a donation instead of giving online can also mail it to Lynn and Austin Carpenter, in care of Richard Carpenter, 55 Maple St., Lot 5, Harpursville, NY 13787.

“It’s a financial nightmare,” Richard Carpenter said.

Lynn Carpenter has health insurance, but it won’t cover all the medical expenses, he said. She also hasn’t been able to work since the end of August when she became ill. She believes she may have caught the coronavirus from a Unity House colleague who previously tested positive, her in-laws said.

Austin Carpenter took time off his job as an EMT with Dryden Ambulance to be in Syracuse with his wife and baby. He told his dad he has about three weeks of savings, but that won’t cover all the hospital bills.

Lynn planned to get vaccinated, but had not yet during her pregnancy, her father-in-law said. Austin also is not yet vaccinated, but hospital staff is encouraging him to do so before he brings the baby home so he likely will soon, Richard Carpenter said.

Christine Nash, the couple’s friend who created the GoFundMe fundraiser, said the money raised will help as ”their bills are mounting to astronomical highs.”

Nash shared Lynn’s Facebook post from over the weekend:

“This has been one hard journey these last few weeks being stuck in the hospital undergoing surgeries, having to have Dawsyn and not being able to see my son until just yesterday and not being able to speak to him or hold him and compared to that the other hardest of them all is learning to walk again. I do wanna thank my husband who has been by my side dealing with me in the hospital every day. The days I wanna quit, the days I cry because nothing ever feels like it’s going to get better and I’m stuck reliving past memories like those will be my last and even the good days. I also wanna thank the family who has come to visit, checked in, and FaceTimed with me. And to everyone on here who has sent messages and prayers and the go fund me page really just everything. Everything that you all are doing to help me and my family in this hard time. Thank you all for coming together for me. It’s nice to know I have such a crowd of supporters and it helps me to keep fighting on. So thank you everyone it’s much appreciated!”

Nash said she hopes others will help Lynn, Austin and Dawsyn Carpenter.

“If ever a family deserved help from the public, it’s this one,” Nash wrote. “These are people that save lives on a daily basis and run into danger without a second thought.”

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