After mom's death, Reno dad raising newborn alone

Today, Karli Johnson should be rocking her baby.

The first-time Reno mom might call her baby “Peanut,” like she did when she saw him for the first time on an ultrasound.

She might put him in an Oakland Raiders onesie, the one she bought for her husband, Will Johnson, who is a fan of the football team.

The new parents would laugh through lots of yawns as their once adult conversations were now mostly about baby poop.

Karli Johnson, 26, should be smiling because she had everything she really wanted, friends and family say.

Instead, baby Bodie and his proud father, Will, left Renown Regional Medical Center Jan. 18 without mommy.

“It's bittersweet,” said Will, who faces the future as a single father.

Karli died on Dec. 17, two days after giving birth.

The new father left the hospital where his son stayed for 33 days. He hasn't gone home or to the yellow room he painted for his son since his wife died.

He plans to stay with Karli's mother for now.

“It's too sad to go back to that home that we were getting ready for the baby,” he said. He bragged about his wife who picked out the owl and tree decals for the walls of the baby room.

“She got him this baby book about a raccoon in Yosemite,” he said. “We loved Yosemite.”

The day he brought Bodie home, he smiled and made goofy faces, while sometimes fighting back tears, as he fed his son a bottle filled with donated breast milk.

“He looks just like Karli's baby pictures,” he said.

Karli was 7 months pregnant and getting off work as a nurse at Renown Regional Medical Center when she had chest pain.

She was diagnosed with a lower dissection of the aorta. The serious condition is when a large tear develops in the inner layers of the blood vessel branching off the heart.

“The doctor told me it was a one in a 10 million chance it could happen to someone as young as Karli,” Will said. It wasn't caused by her pregnancy, and could have happened anytime, he said.

At first, the couple was relieved it wasn't as serious as an upper dissection, and doctors treated the condition with medicine, hoping the tear would fix itself.

But it was serious enough that Karli was taken to Labor and Delivery for an immediate C-section.

Bodie was born on Dec. 15, weighing 5 pounds and 1 ounce.

“How handsome is my baby?” Karli asked the nurse.

Bodie was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and put on a ventilator before Karli had a chance to see him.

The new mother stayed in cardiac intensive care and was having trouble breathing. But the next day, she seemed to be getting better.

Doctors were optimistic, and plans were made for Karli to move out of the ICU.

She got to go see her son the next day.

“She touched his feet and his head,” Will said.

Mom, Dad and baby took one picture together.

After seeing Bodie, Karli said, “He's so sweet, and I'm so sad.”

Her condition also got worse.

“She was cold and pure white,” Will said. He kissed his wife and told her he loved her as they took her in to surgery.

“When the doctor came out and told us she died, I thought it was a sick joke,” Will said.

Karli died on the operating table.

The nervous new father said he remembers Karli sitting him down on the edge of the couple's bed to tell him she was pregnant.

“She handed me the thing,” he said of the pregnancy test. “She took like four of them to make sure.”

Friends and family said Bodie will grow up hearing about Karli and how excited she was to be a mom.

“She wanted a career, to get married and have a kid,” Will said. “Bodie was her greatest accomplishment.”


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal,

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