When Monica Ramirez regained consciousness, she learned that her daughter was already two weeks old.
Monica Ramirez is going all out for her daughter's first birthday. Emiliana won't turn one until July 13th, but Ramirez has been planning the bash for months.
She hired a specialty ice cream vendor. There will be custom balloon arrangements, too.
Like many moms, Ramirez wants to celebrate her child's first year of life. But as they're cutting the cake and eating specialty ice cream, their family will be celebrating something else, too. They'll be celebrating Monica and Emiliana's miraculous survival.
Last July, when Ramirez was 30 weeks pregnant, she contracted COVID-19 and almost died. She spent nearly three weeks in a medically induced coma before waking up in a different hospital, hooked up to a ventilator.
That's when Monica learned she was no longer pregnant. While she was intubated, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section to save both mom and baby. Emiliana was already two weeks old.
"When I woke up, I didn't really understand what they were telling me," Ramirez told Motherly in an exclusive interview. "I was just confused. I thought that I was pregnant. I was like, what do you mean I had a baby?"
Ramirez was disoriented and confused. Over video chat, her husband tried explaining what she and her daughter experienced.
"That's when my husband told me, 'no, remember, you named Emiliana before you got sick?' But I didn't even know I was sick. I didn't know what they were talking about."
On July 7th, Ramirez drove herself to Corona Regional Medical Center because she was having trouble breathing. She was quickly admitted and brought to the ICU. Ramirez says she remembers very little about her time at Corona Regional, except for this: She was given the same ICU room that her father had died in three years earlier. She remembers crying and screaming when she saw the room.
"They probably thought I was delusional. But I remembered that was my dad's room. I'm not going to forget where my dad passed away."
Two days later, she tested positive for COVID-19. On July 10th, Ramirez was placed on a ventilator and airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center.
When Ramirez's condition worsened, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section and delivered Emiliana. It would take two weeks for Ramirez to regain consciousness. It took another week for Ramirez to test negative for COVID and meet her daughter.
"Me and Emiliana went through a lot," says Ramirez. "I coded twice. I believe the day that I coded, Emiliana coded too. We both coded on the same day and we both made it."
"She's just a little fighter," she added. "She's just so strong."
When Monica was discharged from the hospital, she recalls being surrounded by medical equipment at home.
"They had a wheelchair, a hospital bed, a walker, an oxygen tank all set up. I was like, no. I have a newborn baby and a 12-year-old who started Zoom the same day I got home from the hospital."
"I couldn't lay down. I'm not the type of person to just lay down. I'm very active. So, I just had to just get over it because my babies needed me. And I needed to go see my baby in the hospital."
Emiliana spent 55 days in the NICU before heading home with Monica. She never tested positive for COVID-19.
Ramirez says that nearly a year later, Emiliana is doing well. Monica is battling long COVID, where she often feels fatigued.
"I just feel really tired. I'm super tired, even when it's sunny out. I can't even lift my blankets to hang on the line to line dry them."
Still, she feels deeply grateful to have survived.
"I thank God every day that I get to be with my babies. They needed me. A lot of people didn't make it. It wasn't their time and they're gone. It's not fair. I'm the lucky one that survived and got through."
Ramirez still doesn't know where she contracted COVID-19. She's choosing to focus on the future–on her daughters and their family.
"It's still sinking in," she says. "When I see the patients on TV, I'm like, 'did they flip me around like that? Did they do all these things to me?' My husband's like, 'yeah, I'm pretty sure they did. They had to save your life.' I'm still just so overwhelmed."
"I went through all that. I beat COVID. I coded twice. Man, I'm one strong girl," she says with a laugh.
She hopes that by sharing her story, Ramirez can help dispel rumors around COVID-19. She wants people to understand how serious and deadly the virus really is.
On a recent shopping trip, another customer approached Monica and told her to take off her facemask.
"She came up to me and said, just take your mask off. Take that off. Covid doesn't exist. It's a hoax." Ramirez was stunned.
"I said 'lady, I'm going to tell you something.' And I told her my story. She cried the whole way in the line. She just kept saying sorry to me. I said, 'it's not your fault. It's whatever people are telling you and what you're watching. But it's not a hoax. It's true. I went through it; I survived it. My daughter survived it. We could have died.'"
"She did not believe me at first," Ramirez said of the shopper. "Well, she went home a believer," she said with a chuckle.
"Please don't let your guard down," she begs. "Don't let your guard down. That's what I want to tell all the moms. Because you just don't know. You really don't."
- COVID-19: Tips for Giving Birth During the Pandemic - Motherly ›
- Everything we know (so far) about giving birth during the COVID-19 ›