Gabriella and Andrew Silva were over the moon to learn they were pregnant with their first child. They had been married for about three years and had watched their close friends have babies. Even though they were not trying to get pregnant, the timing was perfect to start a family.
“I still remember telling Andrew that he was going to be a dad. I had just taken the test and I told him when he woke up. He was really excited. It was a special moment,” said Gabriella.
Gabriella’s pregnancy was uneventful. She had always been healthy, watched what she ate, took her vitamins, and got plenty of exercise. Her only complaint was how tired she was that first trimester.
Her second trimester was pretty much the same. Even though she had no issues, she switched her birthing plan from using a midwife to an obstetrician. Aside from occasional heartburn, Gabriella was sailing right along with pregnancy until she was 33 weeks along.
That’s when she was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I’m healthy, and I’m young. I was 26 at the time and didn’t think much of it,” said Gabriella. “I had the sniffles and thought it was allergies.”
Bbout the seventh or eighth day into her COVID diagnosis, Gabriella was not feeling well at all and developed a high fever. She was extremely lethargic and could barely find the strength to get up and get herself a glass of water and found it challenging to eat anything.
Still, Gabriella was not too concerned. She consulted with her sister, a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist, about what she should do and how she should take care of herself. At this point, she had not told her obstetrician she had COVID.
One night, as Gabriella recovered, she went to bed and had a horrible dream that she lost her baby – a little boy she had already named Daniel. She thought the dream might be a sign something was wrong and called her obstetrician right away. Luckily, she had reached her last day of quarantine and was no longer symptomatic.
Upon arrival, Gabriella explained to the nurse that it had been about 18 hours since she could feel Daniel’s presence, and they became concerned. While they could detect a heartbeat, Daniel’s heart rhythms were off, and he scored a two out of 10 on his ultrasound test. Something was wrong, and Gabriella needed a C-section right away so Daniel could survive.
“At that point, I had a total meltdown. I had all these expectations for a beautiful birth. I wanted to be unmedicated. Now, not only did I have to have a C-section, but I had a sick, premature baby. It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” said Gabriella.
The next thing she knew, Gabriella was getting prepped for a C-section. After they took Daniel out, she got to see him for a brief minute, and then the care team rushed him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where he had to be intubated. His oxygen levels and blood pressure had dropped. Daniel was in critical condition.
Meanwhile, Gabriella hemorrhaged twice and had to have a blood transfusion. Thankfully, she did not have to have a hysterectomy. It was not until several hours after he was born that Gabriella was able to meet her son.
“The first time I saw him was very difficult. They weren’t sure if he had COVID and were taking all the necessary precautions. He was this tiny baby connected to all sorts of machines, and there were lots of nurses around him,” said Gabriella. “At that moment, I just started praying over him, praying that he would come out of this and survive.”
She extended the invitation to pray over Daniel to all of their family members and friends – everyone they had ever known.
“For the first time throughout this ordeal, I had a moment of peace. I knew deep down everything was going to be OK. It never crossed my mind that we might lose Daniel. That was the grace of God,” said Gabriella.
A day or so later, the doctor in charge of the NICU came into Gabriella’s room, where she was still recovering from her C-section. She came to inform Gabriella that Daniel may need to receive a process called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO as a precaution. ECMO is used in critical care situations, when the heart and lungs need help so they can heal. This method allows the blood to “bypass” the heart and lungs, allowing these organs to rest and heal. Because that particular hospital did not have access to one, he would need to be transported to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).
The transport team at CHofSA arrived and spent three hours meticulously preparing Daniel for the trip to CHofSA.
When Daniel arrived, he was immediately put under the care of Dr. Cheryl Motta and Sarah, one of his nurses. Dr. Maria Pierce was also on the team, a family friend of Gabriella’s, and told her and Andrew that she would take care of their baby as if he were her own grandson.
Still thinking there might be a chance Daniel had COVID-19, they isolated him from the rest of the babies, putting him in a less intensive area of the NICU, something Gabriella felt was significant. Fortunately, Daniel did not need ECMO after all, but he was still struggling. One lung would collapse, followed by the other, which impacted his heart and blood pressure. From Gabriella’s perspective, Daniel was getting worse and not better.
So, Gabriella and Andrew asked again for prayer from family and friends. At one point, they had about 2,000 people praying for their baby boy. Sarah, the same nurse who took care of Daniel when he was admitted, gave Gabriella a little voice recorder. Gabriella used it to record worship songs for Daniel. One of the other nurses, Amber, played the recordings for Daniel that same night.
The next day when Gabriella and Andrew arrived, something miraculous had happened: Daniel was better.
“No one could explain why, but Daniel was getting stronger. One by one, they were able to disconnect the machines. All the staff was shocked at his quick progress. We truly believe it was the power of prayer,” said Gabriella.
Gabriella remembers the day that Daniel was extubated. It was the first time since he was born she could hear Daniel cry, and from there, he just continued to get better. He was in the NICU for a total of five weeks.
To this day, his doctors are not 100% sure what happened. There is a possibility that he developed COVID-19 in the womb, which would explain why Daniel had so many issues with his heart and lungs when he was born. But they can’t make that diagnosis with certainty.
Today, Daniel is home and hitting many of his newborn milestones. He has had no developmental delays. Daniel is 100% breastfed, and in the 99th percentile for his gestational age.
“The staff at CHofSA as well as our family and friends were the hands and feet of Jesus to us during our time in the NICU. From Dr. Rosen, my obstetrician, who delivered him to all the janitors in the NICU, they all get credit for the incredible life Daniel will have the opportunity to live. Once, when I was driving home from CHofSA, I felt so strongly God’s love for the place that I wept. I believe CHofSA has a special place in the heart of God, taking care of the most innocent and vulnerable in our community – our children. The prayers of the nuns who started the infirmary in the late 1800s are still being answered today,” said Gabriella.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio takes care of the sickest and most vulnerable babies in our community and from all over Texas. Learn more about the Level IV NICU by visiting our website: https://www.christushealth.org/childrens/services-treatments/nicu