The elementary school teacher receieved a call for help from the child's mother from the hospital where she'd been admitted with COVID-19 symptoms, a day before she gave birth.
An elementary school teacher in Connecticut is setting an example of humanity during these trying times by caring for the newborn brother of one of her students. Luciana Lira, who teaches English as a Second Language at Hart Magnet Elementary School in Stamford, didn't think twice about helping the family of her first-grade student Junior when she received a call from his mother Zully on April 1. Zully, who was eight months pregnant at the time, could hardly breathe as she spoke over the phone from the hospital where she'd suddenly been admitted with COVID-19 symptoms.
"I can hardly talk because I’m having a very hard time breathing, but I wanted to let you know that I need your help. Please call my husband," Zully told Lira. Speaking to NBC News, the 42-year-old revealed that doctors had informed Zully she would need an emergency C-section. "I did not think twice about it...when that mom called me asking for help it did not even come across my mind not to say 'yes,'" she said. Although Lira only knew Zully and her husband from parent-teacher conferences and occasional phone calls about Junior's performance in school, she agreed to serve as a liaison and translator between doctors and Marvin who doesn't speak English.
According to CNN, the family is from Guatemala and Zully and her oldest son are currently seeking asylum in the U.S. "I'm very proud that she felt safe in calling me. Out of anybody else, she called the teacher, probably because she felt like she could count on me and trust me," Lira told the network. A day after Zully called Lira, she gave birth to baby Neysel who weighed just 5 pounds, 10 ounces. Lira revealed that he tested negative for coronavirus and was healthy although he was about five weeks premature.
Lira spent the first few days after Neysel's birth trying to get the family baby supplies, like bottles and a car seat, as she expected the baby would eventually go home with his father. However, when the time came for Neysel to leave the hospital after five days in the NICU, it struck her that Marvin might have contracted the virus from Zully. "I realized, 'Wait a second, this father was sleeping with this mother who’s COVID positive,'" she said. "How are we going to release this baby to this father? There's a chance he could be COVID positive. What are we doing here?"
Marvin shared her concern, said Lira, telling her, "I am desperate. I don't want to kill my baby. If I'm COVID positive, he's probably not going to make it." Lira, who is married with an 11-year-old son, offered to take the baby home for a few days while he got himself tested. "I said, 'You know what, if you want, I know you don't know me and I don't know you, and I think I'm crazy for doing this... until you get tested, I can keep the baby with me for one or two days,'" she revealed. She also told Marvin that if he did test positive, he couldn't be around her as she's asthmatic and at higher risk.
"He said, 'Oh my god, Ms. Lira, I don't know you but I know I can trust you... and I'm going to trust you with my baby's life,'" she said. Two days later, Marvin and Junior tested positive. "All we could do was cry and be thankful that I had the baby with me and the father didn’t have any contact with the baby," she said. Zully, meanwhile, was in a critical condition for weeks. She had to go on a ventilator when Covid-19 symptoms rapidly worsened and doctors worried that she wouldn't survive. Fortunately, Zully recovered after getting a plasma treatment and was discharged from the hospital on April 25.
Getty Images photographer John Moore, who was one of the first to cover the story, said: "Zully is still very weak. 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." Marvin and Zully are yet to test negative for Covid-19 so Lira is still caring for baby Neysel, while also juggling teaching full time and caring for her own son. "She was asked to care for a newborn baby during a pandemic when she herself was concerned for the welfare of her own child and family," said Hart Magnet Principal Linda Darling.
"In a split second, Ms. Lira said yes, and totally committed her time and efforts to seeing that this baby was nurtured emotionally and cared for as one of her own," Darling added. According to Lira, Neysel is growing fast—weighing almost 7 pounds at a recent checkup—and talks to the family "a thousand times a day" to keep them in the loop. She hopes he'll be able to meet his big brother and parents soon. "I'm hoping it's going to be very, very soon because that's my biggest dream to have this baby meet his mommy, and his daddy and his older brother," she said. "The family is amazing. I mean, amazing. They love their baby, they can't wait to be reunited."