Lifestyle & Human Interest

Heartbreaking: Couple Unable To Visit Newborn in NICU Amid COVID Concerns


There are many things the public has been instructed to do (or not do) during this time to reduce the spread of COVID-19: Wash your hands for 20 seconds, keep at least six feet away from people and postpone any non-emergency healthcare you may have had scheduled.

Foregoing a physical or routine exam won’t ruin your health. Unless you have pre-existing conditions, you’re likely safer holding off on maintenance until more is known about the virus.

But if you’re a pregnant woman, there’s no putting that off. You can’t postpone your baby’s arrival into the world and avoid the hospital when you’re on the verge of giving birth.

Many pregnant women — who are already stressed and excited about their soon-to-be new arrivals — have had several wrenches thrown into the works. Some hospitals are limiting guests and support people to one, while others are not allowing any.

Other hospitals are warning pregnant women that if they are suspected of having been exposed to the virus, they may very well be separated from their newborns for some time to protect both mother and baby.

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Neither of those things is something a new mom wants to hear. Birth is supposed to be an amazing experience that you go through with your partner and then the time that follows is meant to be a time of bonding as a new family.

With the arrival of COVID-19, those are no longer guaranteed.

Juan and Kim Flores of Atlanta, Georgia, discovered that after their son Nico was born on March 10.

Born at just around three pounds, Nico needed to spend some time in the NICU before going home — but on March 23, Juan and Kim were told they could no longer visit starting the next day.

Due to the virus, guests would no longer be allowed in the NICU at Northside Hospital Atlanta. The news hit them hard, but despite the tears, they understood the logic behind the rule.

“[O]n an intellectual level we know it’s the right choice,” Kim told Good Morning America. “But as a mom, when you can’t be there to help feed bottles and get to know your new baby, it’s very emotional. There’s been a lot of tears.”

“It was hard,” Juan added.

It’s hard for the doctors and nurses, too. No one likes to see families split up, but the alternative is to risk everyone involved.

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“It’s been a very sad week for our families and for our doctors and nurses as we’ve had to implement this,” medical director of Northside Special Care Nurseries Dr. Laura Drohan told CNN.

“These are not nurses you can find anywhere. Without nurses and without respiratory therapists to take care of these babies, these babies will not survive. It’s not the machines that keep them alive, it’s the people.”

While they can’t see their new little one in person, Kim and Juan have been able to FaceTime twice a day to check in on him. It’s not the same as being there and getting to touch him, but it’s something.

“It’s better than nothing,” Juan said to GMA. “It’s making the best of the situation. We understand where they’re coming from.”

“It’s for the babies and also for the staff,” he added. “What if someone who hasn’t been practicing proper social distancing comes in and gets the doctors and nurses sick? Then who will take care of my baby? I hate it but it’s the best thing they can do.”

“I trust that the hospital has the best interest of my baby and all the babies at heart,” Kim said.

Expecting parents should be able to find their hospital’s policies on their hospital’s website, though they’re subject to change.

Even if parents have to be separated from their babies for a while, it’s not the worst that could happen, and the Flores family wants to encourage those facing the same situation that it’s for the best.

“Your baby will be well taken care of,” Juan said. “It’s hard, but it’s not forever.”

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