PUEBLO, Colo. — Last fall, during the isolation of COVID-19 treatment, Kristina Morales-Gomez had to get through without visits from her husband and three daughters.
But she did have one constant companion in her Pueblo hospital room: her unborn daughter, Athalia.
“She was the only person I had when I was sick in that hospital alone. I did talk to her.. I would just talk, no response back, except maybe some kicks,” Morales-Gomez said.
“She’s the only person that knows exactly what I went through.”
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Even after her battle with COVID-19, Morales-Gomez spent months of her time different hospital, visiting newborn Athalia in the neonatal ICU in Colorado Springs. Rocky Mountain PBS interviewed Morales-Gomez at the St. Francis Medical Center in February.
Athalia was born January 26, about seven weeks prior to her March 14 due date. The baby girl went home from the hospital March 27 after spending 60 days in the NICU.
The family’s journey with hospitals began the day before Thanksgiving, when Morales-Gomez started to feel sick.
“I woke up that Wednesday and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like something was on my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath,” she said.
Morales-Gomez went to the emergency room and was admitted to the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.
During the hospitalization, she says her blood oxygen levels dipped so low she saw her fingers turn blue.“That was scary. I didn’t think I was going to live, honestly,” she said.
“My doctor told me, ‘Get on the phone and FaceTime your family.’ And that right there put fear into me,” she said. “When she said that [I thought], 'Am I going to tell them my last words? Is that going to be the last time that I talk to them?'”
Morales-Gomez says the illness persisted for months and symptoms continued into January. Friends donated to a GoFundMe campaign to support the family.
“I just never could get better,” she said. “Nobody knew how to treat me, pregnant with Covid so bad.”When Morales-Gomez delivered Athalia in January, the infant weighed four pounds and eight ounces.“I did go into premature labor because of it,” Morales-Gomez said. “I had no complications prior to me getting sick. I was perfectly fine.”
The CDC has said pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, and “pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.”
Because of those risks, some pregnant women are choosing to be vaccinated. The CDC has noted that data is currently limited about the safety of the vaccines for pregnant patients, but notes, "Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant."
Morales-Gomez said she would recommend the COVID-19 vaccine to expectant mothers who are considering it, based on the experiences she and her baby girl have endured. "I wouldn't want any pregnant women to go through what I did," she said.
This story is part of The Long Haul, an ongoing Rocky Mountain PBS series focused on personal stories from Colorado communities about the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more stories here.
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