STAMFORD, Conn. — An elementary school teacher in Connecticut says she is taking care of a newborn baby boy after getting a phone call from a student’s mother who was eight months pregnant, when she was hospitalized suddenly with COVID-19 symptoms.
Baby Neysel turned 1-month-old over the weekend, but his parents, Zully and Marvin, have not been able to hold him.
Instead, Neysel is staying with Luciana Lira, one of their 7-year-old son’s teachers, who agreed to care for the baby until it is safe for him to come home.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be very, very soon,” Lira told CNN, “because that’s my biggest dream to have this baby meet his mommy, and his daddy and his older brother.”
Zully and Marvin have declined to speak to CNN directly while they recover from their illness, but they have spoken through Lira and others close to them.
Zully could barely talk when she called from the hospital on April 1, and doctors said she needed to have an emergency Cesarean section.
Lira teaches English as a Second Language at Hart Magnet Elementary School in Stamford, where Zully’s son is in the first grade. She’s been working with him since the beginning of the school year.
Zully called her, Lira said, to translate for her husband Marvin, who doesn’t speak English. Lira said Marvin needed help talking with the doctors and health care workers, who were taking care of his family.
The family is from Guatemala and Zully and her oldest son are seeking asylum. CNN agreed to report only the family’s first names out of respect for their privacy.
Lira said she only knew Zully and Marvin from parent-teacher conferences and school events.
“I’m very proud that she felt safe in calling me,” Lira said. “Out of anybody else, she called the teacher, probably because she felt like she could count on me and trust me.”
Lira says she was set up as the hospital’s contact person so she could give updates on Zully and the baby to Marvin and Zully’s mom in Guatemala.
She said Zully’s COVID19 symptoms worsened quickly, and she had to go on a ventilator.
“But thank God, she was — she was a survivor, a miracle case,” Lira said.
Neysel was born on April 2 and tested negative for coronavirus, Lira said. He was about five weeks premature but healthy and weighed more than five pounds.
When it was time for Neysel to leave the hospital after five days in the NICU, Lira said Marvin was afraid to take his son home, concerned that he himself might also have Covid-19.
Lira, who is married with an 11-year-old son, offered to take the baby home for a few days, while they waited for their test results.
Two days later, Marvin tested positive, Lira said.
“So thank God I decided to take that baby home.”
Lira had frequent video conferences with Marvin and Zully’s mother in Guatemala so they could see the baby. They also got to all connect with the hospital, so they could be with Zully while she was in a coma.
“Even though her daughter was in critical condition, she always wanted to say a prayer by her bedside,” Lira said.
Zully recovered after getting a plasma treatment and was able to be removed from the ventilator, Lira said.
He was able to be in Zully’s hospital room when she got to see Neysel and talk to him by video chat and photographed the family on April 25 when Zully got to go home from the hospital.
“Zully is still very weak,” Moore told CNN. “She’s starting to walk with a walker, but she is often breathless after a few steps, and so even though she’s out of the hospital, she’s not ready for the baby to come home.”
He said Marvin was feeling much better after having bad headaches.
Marvin and Zully have not yet tested negative for Covid-19, so Lira is still caring for Neysel.
The group Building One Community is helping the family arrange doctors’ visits, testing, and all the other things the family needs to do to be healthy and ready to bring Neysel home.
Executive Director Catalina S. Horak told CNN that the community has rallied around the family and brought them meals, groceries, furniture and even toys.
She’s visited the family a lot, and says Marvin is thankful for the help and support.
“Every time Marvin says to me, ‘We are so grateful to this community and we can’t wait to celebrate and thank everybody for what they have done,'” Horak said.
Lira said Neysel is growing fast — he weighed almost 7 pounds at a recent checkup — so she’s taking lots of photos and videos so his family will be able to look back at these early days of his life.
She talks to the family “a thousand times a day” and is looking forward to the day when Zully, Marvin and Neysel’s big brother can hold the baby for the first time. It’s not clear when he will be able to go home.
“The family is amazing. I mean, amazing. They love their baby, they can’t wait to be reunited,” Lira said.