Woman Gives Birth on Life Support for COVID and Survives to Meet Her Baby: 'I Was So Scared'

"If the vaccine would've been available to me when I was pregnant, I would've gotten it without thinking about it twice," María Esther Roque Díaz told NBC News

Maria Roque Diaz
Photo: Meghan Borkowicz / University of Maryland Children’s Hospital

A Maryland woman is urging other pregnant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine after she became sick during her pregnancy late last year.

Back in December, María Esther Roque Díaz gave birth to her second child, a baby boy named Dylan, though she was unaware of the birth because she was "unconscious and on life support" after she got sick with COVID-19, NBC News reported.

Per the outlet, Roque Díaz contracted COVID-19 when she was six months pregnant, and at the time vaccines were not readily available.

"I couldn't breathe. I lived [on] a second floor, and I felt like I couldn't even go up those stairs," Roque Díaz told NBC News. "I told Wilian, my partner, to please take me to the hospital. I couldn't take it anymore."

"I was so scared and worried for my baby," the mother of two added.

Maria Roque Diaz
Meghan Borkowicz / University of Maryland Children’s Hospital

Roque Díaz then spent weeks at a local hospital, before she was brought to the University of Maryland Medical Center, according to NBC News. There, she was connected to an extracorporeal life support machine (ECMO), as her lungs were unable to produce enough oxygen to keep herself and her baby alive.

Dr. Allison Lankford, an obstetrician and gynecologist who cared for Roque Díaz during her hospital stay, told NBC News that doctors worked hand in hand with the intensive care unit team to make "decisions for continuing the pregnancy versus timing of delivery."

"That is certainly one of the most challenging decisions," she explained. "We're constantly weighing the potential benefit of delivery for mom versus the risk to the fetus of prematurity."

With Roque Díaz unable to care for herself and in a state of unconsciousness, her son was then delivered by C-section at 32 weeks. The baby weighed only 5 lbs.

Roque Díaz went in and out of consciousness after the arrival of her son, and two days following her C-section, her stomach began to swell, which prompted doctors to find that she was suffering from internal bleeding.

She began to recover and became fully conscious by Valentine's Day. "When I first woke up, the first thing I saw was the big scar in my belly. Then I got scared because I realized I couldn't speak because I was intubated. So, I just started to cry," Roque Díaz said. "My heart started racing and I was sedated again."

Maria Roque Diaz
Meghan Borkowicz / University of Maryland Children’s Hospital

Later on, Roque Díaz and Dylan were at a point where they were healthy enough to be discharged. NBC News reported that they are now currently back at home, where Roque Díaz has had to help her oldest son, Emanuel, adapt to her return, as he was only two when she was hospitalized.

"Now that I'm at home, he calls me, 'Hey, you,'" Roque Díaz told the outlet. "That was tough on me because he essentially didn't know who I was. When he would come near me to carry him, I had to explain to him that I couldn't. I would tell him to please forgive me."

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Roque Díaz is now using her story to encourage others to get the COVID-19 vaccine so they don't suffer the same trauma that she had to go through.

"If the vaccine would've been available to me when I was pregnant, I would've gotten it without thinking about it twice," Roque Díaz told NBC News.

"I may be here with all this additional weight and all these scars, but at least I'm here with my family and kids, enjoying them," she added. "But unfortunately, other mothers who had cases similar to mine are not here with us."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only a third of pregnant people nationwide have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination rates for both pregnant Latino and Black individuals remain low, with 25 percent and 15.6 percent, respectively.

The CDC has also reported more than 141,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pregnant individuals between Jan. 22, 2020, and Nov. 1, including 218 deaths.

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