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.
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.
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 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. “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.”
ICU baby 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.
With her transportation stipends 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.
“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.