Lisseth Hernandez prayed the rosary in the ambulance, worrying about her children. She didn’t want to leave her 2-year-old son behind. Plus, she was pregnant with twins.
But the 24-year-old Everett resident had become so sick after contracting the disease caused by the coronavirus that she couldn’t speak. Her husband watched her labored breathing and saw her health decline rapidly in a matter of days.
“By the days I was getting worse,” Hernandez said.
When her husband made the decision to get her to the hospital, she trusted his judgement.
“My mom gave me a rosary,” she said by phone Monday. On the way to the hospital, “I was praying the whole time."
When she was admitted to the hospital on April 10, she continued to pray. She was so worried for the health of her unborn twins.
“I just remember them saying, you have COVID-19, you’re positive,” she said. “I was so scared.”
One of the last things she remembers after receiving the diagnosis was the medical staff telling her that she would need to be placed on a ventilator. When she awoke April 14, she was in the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Congratulations, they said. Here are your babies. They showed me a picture,” she said.
Unbeknownst to her, she had given birth to her twins — Sebastian and Aurora — the day before. They were delivered 10 weeks early while she was on a ventilator, via cesarean section.
At first she couldn’t believe it. She thought she was still pregnant when she woke up.
“I was like, hold on a minute what happened here? I look at my belly and I’m like, when was this?”
Sebastian and Aurora were then transferred from Mass. General to Tufts Medical Center, where they continue to recover and are making great progress.
On April 27, two weeks after the twins were born, Hernandez was finally able to see them in person.
“Oh my God, it was amazing,” she said. “I was like sweating, I was that nervous. Like it was my first date with someone. You know that feeling.”
Hernandez is happy to report that she is doing well, as are both of her babies. She hopes to have them home in the coming weeks.
She still doesn’t know where she caught the coronavirus. She is a stay-at-home mom and had been so careful, especially since she was pregnant. “I was home taking care of my son,” she said.
Dr. Jacyln Boulais, associate medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, said she and the rest of the staff felt tremendous empathy for Hernandez and her family.
“You have a mom who is unaware of the delivery and no family is allowed to visit the patients," Boulais said. "We just had tremendous heartfelt empathy for the family being in this position.”
Boulais praised the inter-institutional teamwork that took part in the care, and said the medical staff are feeling “so grateful” that Hernandez made a speedy recovery and that both babies are doing well.
Both Aurora and Sebastian tested negative for COVID-19, she said. Aurora still needs some respiratory support, and they are both learning how to feed and making progress.
“Despite being 10 weeks early, they’re doing great," she said.
Boulais had the honor of being there when Hernandez got to see her babies for the first time.
“It was definitely one of those moments when you’re grateful for the career path you’ve chosen," she said. "It’s days like that make your job special.”