Pregnancy is a trying enough time without the added bonus of a pandemic. What would have been a final triumphant trek to the hospital for many expectant mothers has turned into a life-or-death gamble.
For that reason, many have opted for home births — but not everyone has the luxury of that choice, especially when they’ve already contracted the virus.
Zully was eight months pregnant with her son, Neysel, when she was hit by COVID-19. When she got to the hospital, she was told that she would need to have an emergency c-section.
Not knowing who else to turn to, Zully — who is from Guatemala — called her son’s first-grade teacher, who teaches English as a second language, to ask for help translating.
“I’m very proud that she felt safe in calling me,” Luciana Lira, the teacher, told CNN. “Out of anybody else, she called the teacher, probably because she felt like she could count on me and trust me.”
At first, Lira just helped relay Zully’s status and info to her family in Guatemala, but Zully’s condition deteriorated quickly, and soon she was on a ventilator.
On April 2, Neysel was born and tested negative for COVID-19, necessitating the dreaded separation between mother and child that so many have feared.
Neysel spent five days in the NICU before he was ready to leave — but where would he go? He couldn’t go back to his sick mother, and his father, Marvin, was worried that though he initially tested negative for the virus, that he could be carrying it.
Seeing their predicament, Lira made a selfless offer: She would take the newborn and care for him until his parents were able to safely take him home. A short while later, Marvin tested positive for COVID.
“So thank God I decided to take that baby home,” Lira said.
Lira continued in her role as translator, and Zully’s supportive family checked in on her constantly, even when Zully was unresponsive.
“Even though her daughter was in critical condition, she always wanted to say a prayer by her bedside,” Lira said of Zully’s mother.
Thankfully, Zully started to pull through. She was taken off ventilation, and although she still has a long way to go, she is improving.
“Zully is still very weak,” Getty Images’ John Moore, who photographed the family in the hospital, told CNN. “She’s starting to walk with a walker, but she is often breathless after a few steps, and so even though she’s out of the hospital, she’s not ready for the baby to come home.”
“But thank God, she was — she was a survivor, a miracle case,” Lira added.
Marvin and Zully are home now, recovering, but waiting to test negative for the virus before bringing their newest addition home.
“The family is amazing,” Lira said. “I mean, amazing. They love their baby, they can’t wait to be reunited.”
“I’m hoping it’s going to be very, very soon,” she said, “because that’s my biggest dream to have this baby meet his mommy, and his daddy and his older brother.”
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