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September 16, 2020

A woman gave birth almost 3 months early—while in a coma with Covid-19

Daily Briefing
    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Sept. 8, 2021.

    Just 12 hours after Blanca Rodriguez was placed on a ventilator to treat her Covid-19, doctors had to perform an emergency cesarean section to deliver her daughter—months before her due date, Kellie Gormly reports for the Washington Post.

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    A 'nightmare' for a pregnant patient

    Rodriguez said she first began experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, the disease cause by the novel coronavirus, in late July, when she developed difficulty breathing. At first, she assumed her symptoms were the result of her unborn baby pushing on her ribs.

    "It felt like somebody's suffocating you," she said. "It felt horrible."

    Rodriguez's husband, Josue Jimenez, immediately took her to Loma Linda University Health. Once at the hospital, Rodriguez was diagnosed with Covid-19 and moved to the ICU, where she had a tube placed in her throat to help her breathe, Gormly reports.

    As her conditioned worsened, doctors decided Rodriguez would not survive unless they placed her in a coma and put her on a ventilator. But a new problem soon arose: Her baby wasn't receiving enough oxygen.

    Just 12 hours later, Rodriguez's obstetrician, Courtney Martin medical director for maternity services at Loma Linda University Children's Health, performed an emergency cesarean section.

    The baby, Jade, was born at just 28 weeks, weighing two pounds, 11 ounces, and was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Gormly reports.

    Kanwaljeet Maken, one of the doctors who cared for Rodriguez, said doctors weren't sure whether Rodriguez and Jade would survive.

    "It's my nightmare when I get a pregnant patient in the ICU," Maken said. "It's stressful because you're dealing with two lives at that time."

    A recovery—for mother and daughter

    Rodriguez remained in a medically induced coma for eight days. She was woken up and taken off the ventilator in August.

    According to Gormly, after Rodriguez learned that her daughter had not contracted Covid-19—and was steadily recovering in the NICU—she herself started to "get stronger every day."

    Eventually, Rodriguez was well enough to be discharged from the hospital. However, because she was still sick, she had to self-quarantine and wasn't able to visit her newborn until after she received a negative coronavirus test on Aug. 17.

    For her part, Jade is expected to be able to come home with her parents on Oct. 15—her original due date, and Rodriguez's birthday, Gormley reports.

    Rodriguez said she's looking forward to bringing Jade home with her. "I am blessed that I made it through and I am able to be with my kids and my baby," she said. "I'm just counting those days until I can bring her home."

    Martin agreed, saying the day will be exciting both for Rodriguez and her doctors. "It's important to mention that Blanca is such a kind person and just an example of what most mothers are—willing to do anything to save their baby, and willing to sacrifice themselves," she added (Gormly, "Inspired Life," Washington Post, 9/15).

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