Elementary school teacher Luciana Lira from Stamford, Connecticut took in a student’s newborn brother when she found out that the family had contracted the deadly COVID-19.
Lira received a call on March 31 from one of her student’s mother, whom she met only at parent-teacher conferences a few times.
In Spanish, Lira was told, “Miss Lira, my name is Zully — I’m Junior’s mom. I need your help. I can hardly talk because I’m having a very hard time breathing, but I wanted to let you know that I need your help. Please call my husband and help him and my son. I’m at the hospital, and I’m going to have an emergency C-section.”
By that time, Zully was 8 months pregnant and had tested positive for coronavirus.
“I did not think twice about it. … When that mom called me asking for help, it did not even come across my mind not to say ‘yes,’” Lira said in an interview.
Lira called Zully’s husband, Marvin, and gave his permission so that Lira could translate for her husband and communicate with the medical staff and act as the go-between for the family.
“I’m very proud that she felt safe in calling me,” Lira said, “Out of anybody else, she called the teacher, probably because she felt like she could count on me and trust me.”
The doctors delivered Zully’s baby, Neysel, five weeks early, and sent to the newborn intensive care unit for observation while the mother’s COVID-19 symptoms quickly worsened and had to go on a ventilator.
Fortunately, baby Neysel tested negative for coronavirus.
After five days in the NICU, baby Neysel is set to leave the hospital, but Marvin was afraid to take his son home, as he fears to have contracted the virus himself.
He shared his concern to Lira, and said, ““I am desperate. I don’t want to kill my baby. If I’m COVID positive, he’s probably not going to make it.”
Lira agreed to take in baby Neysel while they wait for the test results, and a couple of days later, both Marvin and his son, Junior, tested positive for coronavirus.
“All we could do was cry and be thankful that I had the baby with me and the father didn’t have any contact with the baby,” Lira said.
Zully remained in the hospital while Marvin and Junior isolated at home, and Lira’s family quickly adapted into a new routine of feedings and diaper changes while teaching ESL online for grades K through 5 at Stamford’s Hart Magnet Elementary School.
Despite the exhaustion, Lira told reporters that the experience is “very rewarding.”
“Neysel is a preemie, so he needs to be fed every two hours or so, and he loves to stay awake most of the night. But I am honored that the family wanted me to help.”
Zully has since been released from the hospital and joined Marvin and Junior at home, but she is too weak to hold baby Neysel, so Lira promised she will continue to care for the infant as long as necessary.
“I am happy to do what I can.”