When Karneisha, a young mother from Cutler Bay, tested positive for coronavirus she was caught completely off guard. She was pregnant with her second child and had no apparent COVID-19 symptoms, though she did have high blood pressure.
“I don’t see how I could have tested positive for COVID. I felt perfectly fine.”
Hours after receiving her results, her daughter Treasure was born at 29 weeks, 11 weeks premature weighing less than 2 pounds. In an effort to reduce her exposure to COVID, Treasure was immediately removed from the delivery room.
“When I first had her, I never had a chance to see her – never even got a glance at her,” Kenseisha explained tearfully.
While Karnseisha’s story is surprising, it isn’t uncommon. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that COVID-19 is linked to preterm delivery. According to the study, COVID positive pregnant women have a 25 percent increased risk of preterm delivery compared to the general population.
A Helping Hand
Karneisha’s challenges didn’t end after delivery.
“I wasn’t allowed to see my baby until I got two negative COVID tests,” Karneisha said. “I couldn’t see my baby for a good two weeks.”
As Karneisha recovered from her caesarian, she struggled to find access to COVID testing near her home. She also worried about how she would find the time to take the two-hour round trip bus ride to visit Treasure at the hospital while also managing her 3-year-old son and full time job.
This is when she met ICU baby, a non-profit organization that supports families with babies in the NICU in Miami-Dade. A volunteer with ICU baby reached out to Karneisha to check on her recovery, but instead learned about her difficulties.
“Karneisha had already been through so much and she still had so many challenges in front of her. We had to help.” said Elizabeth Simonton, co-founder and CEO of ICU baby.
ICU baby started by providing Karneisha a list of testing locations near her home so she could get the testing needed to reunite with Treasure in the NICU. They also provided her with a monthly Uber stipend that would cut down on her travel costs and travel time, in addition to other gifts that made her visits to the NICU more comfortable.
“ICU Baby was a big help to me. Before they reached out to me, I was lost. I didn’t know where to go or what to do with the transportation situation. They helped me out a lot,” said Karneisha.
Reuniting in the NICU
“The first time seeing my baby was quite overwhelming. I sat and watched her go through all this with all these tubes around her and I couldn’t do anything to help her.”
With the help of ICU baby, Karneisha is able to get more time with Treasure at the NICU, though it’s not always easy. “Sometimes I come up here and sit with my baby and talk to her and break down and cry.”
Karneisha’s time with Treasure in the hospital is critical. Research indicates that a baby’s developmental and physiological outcomes are improved when parents are present and can practice skin-to-skin care and bond with their baby, while participating in their care in hospital.
World Prematurity Awareness Day
World Prematurity Day is recognized globally on November 17th and Treasure represents the 10% of babies that are admitted to the NICU for prematurity in the United States. Despite all the obstacles, Treasure has made great progress in the last two months, including doubling her birth weight.
“Treasure is a fighter. From being born two months early to coming all the way to this, she is a strong fighter,” Karneisha added proudly. She’s looking forward to bringing Treasure home soon to meet her big brother, grandmother and aunts.
Support ICU baby
Karneisha is grateful for ICU baby’s support during her NICU journey. “They are always there for me – calling to check up and making sure everything is okay for me and Treasure. They are full of gifts. It’s amazing!”
In 2019, ICU baby provided roughly $140,000 in tangible goods and services to families with a baby in the NICU in Miami-Dade County. In-hospital volunteers logged 1,614 volunteer hours offering support to NICU families’ bedside.
This World Prematurity Day help ICU baby support mothers like Karneisha by making a pledge to ICU baby’s Give Miami Day campaign. ICU baby believes that babies should not be alone. No baby should go unvisited by his family because of financial or emotional barriers. If you’d like to help support mothers like Karneisha, please pledge to help NICU families on Give Miami Day.