A pregnant Connecticut teen who tested positive for the Zika virus has decided to carry her baby to full term despite the risks of birth defects.
“I’m not happy that my baby is going to be born with Zika but God has given me a miracle,” Sara Mujica tells PEOPLE.
The 17-year-old from Danbury, Connecticut, says that doctors told her she would never be able to conceive because she had meningitis at age 15.
“Doctors said that I would never get pregnant so this is a big miracle for me,” she says.
Mujica and her fiancé, Victor Cruz, 19, learned they were pregnant on March 14 – just four days after she started exhibiting symptoms of the Zika virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects, including microcephaly.
“I was getting rashes all over my body: my legs, my arms, my face everywhere, and I also had a fever and headaches,” she remembers. “I started researching Zika but I also thought it could be chicken pox.”
The teen believes she contracted the virus while visiting her fiancé in Choloma, Honduras, where he currently lives.
Upon her return to the U.S. on March 30, she went to a hospital where she was tested for the virus. The test results took more than a month, during which time Mujica flew back to Honduras to be with her fiancé.
Then, on May 2, Mujica’s mother received the news that her daughter’s Zika test results came back positive.
“My mom called me hysterically crying, she told me her heart was breaking for me,” Mujica says. “I was in shock.”
While the Zika virus has been linked to birth defects, medical professionals cannot know for certain how the baby will be affected until it is born. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pregnant women who test positive for Zika undergo frequent ultrasounds to monitor their babies’ development.
“The current recommendations would be for Sara to confer with her obstetrician and get periodic ultrasounds to find whether the development of the head is continuing on an appropriate basis,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University medical center, tells PEOPLE. “But we know that ultrasounds, although helpful, are also not perfect. In the best of hands the ultrasounds may not detect the microcephaly.”
The teen says she and her fiancé deliberated whether or not to keep the baby given the risks.
“I mean it’s a hard choice, I don’t know exactly how I’m going to bring up a child with a disability,” she says. “But I am Catholic and I believe that I must raise the child that God gave me.”
According to health officials, microcephaly is just one of many health risks the baby could face.
“Microcephaly as we get more and more information is a dramatic and tragic aspect but it’s not the only kind of fetal damage that could occur such as hearing and visual problems,” Dr. Schaffner continues. “All that is still under investigation as more women deliver babies.”
Now, Mujica is trying to raise the money she needs to return to the United States sooner than her current return ticket so she can seek the healthcare recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I have a return ticket for July 24,” she says. “If I had the money I would come back this week but I spent all my money on that ticket.”
She’s also working to secure a visa so that her fiancé can come back with her. “He’s helping me with anything and everything possible and I’m going to really feel alone without him,” she says.
Mujica and her fiancé have set up a GoFundMe to help support their baby.
•With additional reporting by ROSE MINUTAGLIO