Human Interest

Teacher takes in student’s newborn brother as family battles COVID-19


A Connecticut teacher is caring for her student’s newborn brother while the family recovers from COVID-19 in the hard-hit state. The baby has tested negative for the virus.

According to the Harford Courant, the baby’s mother, Zully, was severely ill with COVID-19. She called her seven-year-old son Junior’s teacher, Luciana Lira, telling her that she needed help and asking her to call her husband Marvin. Lira, who is bilingual, has since become the interpreter for the family and the doctors, as well as for extended family members in Guatemala.

When she first spoke with Marvin, the two didn’t really know each other and she said, “All he could do is cry. And cry. And cry. She was five weeks early. He said, ‘I’m just terrified. I don’t know what’s going on in my life.'” With permission, Lira was able to receive medical information about Zully and the baby from the doctors to pass on to family members.

Zully delivered her premature son, who weighed five pounds, 12 ounces, while she was in a medically induced coma.

“She was critically ill, to the point where they thought she wasn’t going to make it,” said Lira. The baby boy, named Neysel, was doing well enough to be discharged after just five days in the hospital. But Marvin and Junior were thought to also have COVID-19, and they had no family members available to take in the baby while they recovered. Marvin asked Lira to take in the baby and soon after, he and Junior both tested positive.

STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT – APRIL 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) COVID-19 patient and Guatemalan asylum seeker Zully makes a video call with her husband and son, also recovering from coronavirus, days after being removed from a ventilator at a Stamford Hospital ICU on April 24, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. On her bed is a photo of her newborn son Neysel, weeks after she gave birth through an emergency C-section and was put on a ventilator…. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

READ: Teacher adopts student with Down syndrome after mom dies of cancer

Lira didn’t hesitate to take in the newborn, and her husband was on board too. “I cried,” she said about the moment she met the baby on April 8. “I’m like, am I just having a nightmare right now? This is surreal. This should not happen. This father, who adores his son, who adores his son so much, can’t even go near his son. I just felt extremely depressed and sad. It’s a stranger who’s taking the baby home.”

Lira and her husband hadn’t had a newborn in their home in years, but after putting out a call for help, donations of baby supplies came flooding in. Now Lira is caring for the baby, her own son, and her in-laws, while teaching full time remotely. Her husband is also working from home.

Zully’s condition is now improving after receiving an experimental plasma treatment, and she has been discharged from the hospital; however, she still has a long way to go and doctors want to send her to a rehabilitation center because she is having difficulty walking. Unfortunately, both she and her husband are out of work and don’t have the health insurance to cover the cost. Zully is also still testing positive for COVID-19.

Lira has been happy to help the family and care for the newborn, but her dream, she said, “would be to have [Zully] home, with the baby, for Mother’s Day.”

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