ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida mother is back home after spending weeks in the hospital fighting COVID-19 during and after her pregnancy.
According to Orlando Health, Paola Gambini started having trouble breathing on July 29 as she approached her due date, so her fiancé Michael Hazen called 911.
The next day, doctors at Orlando Health’s Winne Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies performed an emergency C-section, and little Lilliana Hazen was born, sharing a birthday with her dad.
“She was the best birthday present ever,” Hazen said.
However, the journey wasn’t over for Paola.
Since her condition was so severe, Gambini was transferred to Orlando Health ‘s Regional Medical Center, where she spent 85 days fighting the virus’ effects. Doctors had to use ventilator support, ECMO, and other forms of rehabilitation to help the new mother get back on her feet.
Paola went more than a month without seeing her daughter. But on Sept. 3, medical staff arranged for her to see her baby girl, and Lilliana visited her mother at the hospital.
After the visit, the hospital said Paola felt better and was able to go outside and get some fresh air, something she hadn’t done in weeks.
While she recovered, Paola stayed in contact with her baby and fiancé via FaceTime. The hospital said Michael event put pictures of little Lilliana on the walls of Paola’s hospital room.
“The baby is going to recognize mom’s face and voice just fine,” Michael said. “If we FaceTimed her now, the baby would probably answer.”
“I think there will be a lot of staring,” Paola said. “Her looking at me, me looking at her. And her thinking Mommy’s not in a little square anymore.”
Paola began using a walker in October. On Oct 22, she crossed the finish line banner at the hospital’s rehabilitation center, was applauded and given a gold medal.
After being released from the hospital, Paola was reunited with her family.
“There were rough patches,” she said. “There were times they told Michael I might not make it, and he was like, ‘She’s coming home.’ I did everything to have our baby. God brought me back to her.”
Paola’s road to recovery hasn’t ended yet as she participates in one of the hospital’s outpatient rehabilitation programs.
But this time, she won’t have to tough it out alone.