Pregnant Mom Survives COVID-19, Waits A Month to Hold Her Baby

June 24, 2020

Denver Health COVID-19 patient Ruth Esparza with her family after recovery

Ruth González Esparza fights back tears when she talks about how thankful she is for her care at Denver Health. She came to the hospital for the most joyous occasion in many people's lives – to give birth to her baby. But just hours after her little boy Jose Luis Sanchez González was born on March 31, 2020, she found herself near death and fighting a virus she didn't even know she had.

"She was one of our first COVID moms," recalled Denver Health clinical nurse educator Kenisha Karlsson, RN. "The nurses, they just felt a real connection to Ruth."

COVID-19 Symptoms and Risks for Pregnant Moms

The COVID-19 pandemic was just getting started when Esparza had her baby through a C-section. Karlsson remembers Esparza meeting all of her milestones before, during and after giving birth. It was only after her delivery that Esparza started experiencing some of the symptoms of the virus.

"She complained of a sore throat and because she had that sore throat, we decided to keep her longer," Karlsson remembered. That little symptom of a sore throat quickly progressed and it was determined Esparza had COVID-19. She was quickly admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and separated from her baby.

Watch: Denver Health patient Ruth González Esparza talks about the tough decision she had to make when she tested positive for COVID-19 after having her baby boy at Denver Health.

Babies with mothers who test positive for COVID-19 are not born with it themselves; they have to be exposed – which is why Esparza made the tough decision to separate from her baby, to protect him and the rest of the family from the virus.

Karlsson said that pregnant mothers are considered to be in a higher risk group for testing positive for the COVID-19 virus because they often have lowered immune systems as they are developing and growing their babies.

Separated From Her Baby for A Month

Esparza doesn't remember much from those initial days before she was intubated, but said she was having trouble breathing and was very tired. She said her goodbyes to her family because she knew they were not going to see her for a while.

"Being separated from my newborn son Jose and my five-year-old daughter Jacqueline was very difficult," Esparza reflected.

She was intubated for two weeks in the ICU and separated from her family for a month.

"The two weeks she was intubated were the worst for me," said Esparza's husband Federico González, who couldn't go to visit his sick wife in the hospital because of the risk of infection. He was at home taking care of their two children by himself. "I don't wish this upon anyone."

Esparza said when she woke up in the ICU, she didn't know how many days had gone by.

Denver Health Comes Together to Help

During all of this, the nurses and staff who had taken care of Esparza when she had her baby were following her progress, rooting for her to get better. Because of their special connection to this family, and knowing the struggles the family was going through and about to go through, Karlsson explains how they made a decision to help.

"We just decided one day, let's adopt them as a family. So we reached out to the Denver Health Foundation and they donated clothes for the baby, diapers, wipes and clothing for their five-year-old daughter. We also got a great donation from Infamil (who provides formula to the hospital already) of five cases of formula. In addition, the staff members took up a cash collection of more than $300 to give the family a gift card to get groceries."

"There's no words to appreciate all the people who were involved in my care," said Esparza who added she was surprised by such a large donation of help.

"We are just really glad that she is home with her family now and that she gets to hold her little baby," said Denver Health Mom/Baby Unit nurse Zenyace Carrillo, RN.

Ruth's Recovery and Words of Wisdom

Esparza is now home, with her family, recovering. Her doctors are watching her closely and monitoring her to make sure she continues on that recovery path. She said she is feeling a lot better, but still is a little shaky when she walks. Her doctors tell her that she is ahead of schedule with her recovery and that she will only continue to improve.

When asked about the risks of getting COVID-19 and why people should protect themselves, Esparza does not mince words.

"This is not a joke. This is real, it is going around. Anywhere you go – make sure to wear your mask, use your hand sanitizer or wash your hands."

Esparza goes on and on about how the medical care she received at Denver Health was excellent, but she also said there is a bigger reason she made it through this illness.

"Thanks to god for a second chance at life. I feel like I'm reborn again."