Nurse who gave birth fighting for her life with Covid-19 returns home
- Credit: Royal Papworth
A nurse who gave birth while fighting for her life with coronavirus has returned home to her baby daughter for the first time in months.
Eva Gicain, an NHS nurse at a hospital in London, was rushed into hospital with a severe case of Covid-19 when she was 34 weeks pregnant in October.
With her condition continuing to deteriorate, she had an emergency caesarean section and gave birth prematurely at 35 weeks.
She has no memory of the event nor does she remember then being transferred 10 days later from Basildon to Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge as she fought for her life.
Eva was admitted to critical care and put onto ECMO – extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – a machine that takes over the job of the lungs by removing carbon dioxide from the blood and adding oxygen.
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This allows the lungs precious time to recover while treatment for COVID-19 is applied.
“The first thing I remember is waking up just a few days before Christmas,” said Mrs Gicain.
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At 30-years-old, Eva is one of the youngest patients to receive ECMO for COVID-19 at Royal Papworth Hospital.
After being supported by this ‘artificial lung’ for three weeks she was discharged from critical care and transferred to a step-down ward a few days before Christmas.
“The first thing I remember is just a few days before Christmas and being told where I was, what I had been through and that Elleana was doing well,” she said.
“I was able to regularly video call my husband, Limuel, and Elleana, and we spent a long time on the phone together on Christmas Day, although I couldn’t speak much as my throat was so sore from having been ventilated.
“Not being able to see them in person and touch them was so difficult; I was determined to get home to them as soon as possible.”
Limuel, also 30, has rather more vivid memories of the past few months.
While his wife was unconscious in hospital 50 miles away in Cambridge, his daughter spent three weeks in Basildon University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) down the road from the family home.
He was unable to visit either of them because he was also fighting his own battle with coronavirus at home.
"I was very unwell so I couldn’t leave the house, never mind visit either my wife or daughter”, he said.
“It was so horrible the three of us being in separate places at a time when we should all have been together.
“I was finally able to visit Elleana just in time for her being discharged from NICU on 21 November.”
Once dad and daughter were safely back at home, though, Limuel – who works as a healthcare assistant in palliative care - admits there was a fresh, if slightly less concerning, worry on his mind.
“We knew we were having a girl and had discussed the name, but I didn’t know how Eva wanted to spell Elleana, which meant I couldn’t yet get her registered.
“Luckily, I found some personalised pyjamas that Eva had bought which were meant as a Christmas present and so I managed to get the spelling from there!
“My manager at work has been so generous to give me time off throughout this whole period so I can be there for Eva and Elleana: I am so grateful for that.”
Following a few more weeks of recovery and rehab with help from the multidisciplinary team, Eva was discharged from her fourth floor bedroom at Royal Papworth Hospital accompanied by a round of applause on Tuesday, January 12 and spent her first night back at home with her beautiful family.
Two weeks on, she is making good progress aided by the reunion with her new arrival.
“I am feeling much better now,” Eva said a few days after being home. “When I held Elleana for the first time I didn’t want to let go. It was a special moment.
“Life is unpredictable and we are now just looking forward to being a little family and spending time together.”
On January 21, nine days after Eva arrived home, the three of them celebrated a belated Christmas Day together.
Elleana, who had been due to arrive in December, is now nearly three months old and doing well.