A jubilant new mother who was hit by a severe Covid-19 infection just two months before her due date said her prayers were answered after she gave birth to twin girls.
Filipino Mariecen Nituma Agillon, 26, was rushed in for a coronavirus test 31 weeks into her pregnancy in June after reporting a fever, cough and shortness of breath to her doctor.
As her condition began to deteriorate, doctors admitted her to an isolation ward at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Nahda, in Dubai.
Ms Agillon’s husband, office worker Kenneth Zamora, also tested positive for the virus and was admitted to a different quarantine centre by Dubai Health Authority.
The babies were born prematurely at just 32 weeks, but both babies are doing well despite complications resulting from their mother’s severe Covid-19 infection.
The new arrivals, Laura Eve and Lauren Glory, weighing 1.4 kilograms and 1.6kg, both tested negative for Covid-19.
“These were difficult times for all of us,” said Ms Agillon, who is now at home with her husband and daughters.
“My husband and I could only pray that things would turn out the way they did, and God answered our prayers.
“The positive experience and outcome was only achieved by the dedicated teamwork of all the doctors at the hospital. We are so thankful.”
Medics on a mission to protect mother and children
Health teams worked hard to care for Ms Agillon and to protect her unborn children against the risks posed by her infection and the health complications she suffered.
“Twin pregnancy in general is considered high risk and can lead to preterm delivery,” said Dr Praveena Saraf, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who treated Ms Agillon.
“While Mariecen was weighing just around 50 kgs, the Covid infection increased her risk of a preterm delivery.”
From blood tests on the mother-to-be, doctors diagnosed inflammation from a lung infection and performed a further chest X-ray.
Special precautions were taken to protect her unborn twins from any radiation.
Ms Agillon was found to have pneumonia in both her lungs, and she was given seven litres of oxygen to maintain blood oxygen levels.
A team of specialist carers were rushed in from internal medicine, gynaecology and the hospital’s intensive care unit where she spent the next two days.
A week later, when her condition improved, Ms Agillon was discharged after recording a negative PCR test for Covid-19 and returned home.
Mother-to-be faced tough health battle
But just 24 hours later she began to feel unwell again and was readmitted to the same hospital.
Doctors were shocked when a regulation PCR test for inpatients returned a positive result, just a day after a similar test gave a negative test result for the virus.
To make matters worse, specialists diagnosed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a potentially life-threatening lung injury.
The condition allows fluid to leak into the lungs, causing breathing difficulties, and usually occurs in patients already in hospital through trauma or illness.
“Pregnancy can lead to complications in Covid-19, and in this case, more so since this was a preterm twin pregnancy,” said Dr Rakesh Sankar, a department head at the hospital.
“In addition to Covid-related pneumonia and ARDS, there were other complications during treatment such as severe anaemia requiring a blood transfusion, and bacterial pneumonia with sepsis.
“She also had a high heart rate of around 160 beats per minute and a thyroid problem of some kind.”
Because of her severe state, doctors decided to perform an emergency Caesarean section.
Ms Agillon, who works in sales, coped with the difficult birth on her own, without the support of her husband, who remained in quarantine elsewhere in Dubai.
The tiny sisters were placed in ICU to recover and gain weight, helped by the breast milk their mother expressed while recovering on a nearby ward.
Doctors were confident the virus would not be passed on to the twins and they were finally discharged two weeks later.
The new family is happy to be together now, grateful for the care they received.