Mom devastated by the coronavirus of a newborn refused a lung transplant: “How cruel is that? “
Gabriella Acuna had already given birth to a premature baby, was put on a ventilator and had a cardiac arrest when her family got the call last week.
A medical helicopter landed at a Las Vegas hospital where she was receiving treatment to take her to California for double lung transplant—The best chance to recover from the woes She contracted the virus when she was 23 weeks pregnant.
Acuna’s sister, Paula Olmeda, says the nurse told them the next call they got would be when the 29-year-old new mom was up in the air, on her way to a life-saving procedure.
But when the second call came, the family was informed that the flight had been canceled and the helicopter had taken off from Don Acuna. It turns out that Nevada Medicaid does not cover lung transplants. Kidneys and livers, yes, but neither hearts nor lungs are more expensive.
“It went from ‘Your sister will be safe’ to ‘Your sister will die’ in a few seconds,” Olmeda told The Daily Beast. “It was like a joke.”
Akuna has fought back with the perseverance she has shown since she was first admitted to Centennial Hills Hospital on August 30. This happened to be the month in which the 22 Pregnant women nationwide have died from COVIDThis is the highest percentage since the beginning of the epidemic.
Olmeda says Akuna was among the 69 percent of pregnant women who were not fully vaccinated. Akuna delayed getting the shot until she got her OB-GYN’s approval. She had an appointment to do so in the week of August 23, days before she became one of 125,000 pregnant women who tested positive for COVID. She was brought home from the emergency room twice before her blood oxygen level was so low that she was accepted as one of the 97 percent of pregnant COVID patients in hospital who have not been vaccinated.
“The timing of it was all really bad,” Olmeda said.
The total number of deaths among pregnant women across the country rose to 161 as Akuna fought for the life of her unborn son as well as her own. She was 24 weeks pregnant when she was admitted, and doctors had hoped to extend her for another six weeks until his lungs were developing.
The family has not been able to visit her due to COVID precautions but has seen her via FaceTime as she postpones any invasive treatment to herself in order to give her son a better chance of survival.
“Everyone wanted the baby to be at least 30 weeks old before they took it out,” Olmeda later said.
Meanwhile, the family witnessed the painful confirmation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s findings that pregnancy dramatically increases the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID.
“She ate it alive,” Olmeda said.
Akuna was just 26 weeks old on September 13, when doctors became concerned that her heart was failing. Her family spoke to her via FaceTime just before she was sedated in preparation for an emergency C-section, to be immediately followed by a tracheostomy to accommodate the ventilator.
“The last thing I told my mom was, Mom, I don’t have anything for my child,” Olmeda recalls. “I was like, ‘Jap, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. I’ll make your nursery ready, I’ll get your record, and I’ll take care of it. “
Akuna managed to respond before being brought under control.
“Smile,” Olmeda said.
Akuna’s son, Rayden, was just 1 pound 10 ounces at birth. He was immediately moved to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), as is often the case with newborns whose mothers have contracted COVID.
“She couldn’t see her baby because she was under anesthesia and they put on a ventilator at the time, and it’s been a journey ever since,” Olmeda said.
Olmeda got into her car with her husband, two children, and a dog, and immediately drove from Colorado to Las Vegas to make good on her promise to Akuna.
“We have some family members to come and help us with the drawing,” Olmeda said. “We’ve got her nursery ready. She’s got the registration. She’s ready to go. We just need her to get better.”
Meanwhile, as the neonatal intensive care unit worked to save the baby, the adult intensive care unit struggled to save his mother.
“I know they did their best to keep them alive,” Olmeda said. “It’s a roller coaster ride with Gabby.”
The hospital began allowing visitors. Two family members were accepted at a time.
“They only do it when they think that person is going to die,” Olmeda later said.
The prospect of losing Akuna was even sadder because the family had always felt so protective of her. She is hard of hearing, was bullied at school and was always shy. Family personalities are part of the reason she became a daycare worker.
“The kids don’t judge her, they just see her as Gabby, and that’s it,” Olmeda said. “They see she’s the real one. She has a heart of gold, and that’s why he’s killing us all. She’s like an angel in heaven. Of all people, Gabe, the sweet, pure, innocent Gabby.”
She’s been a late bloomer when it comes to romance but she’s found it with her fiancé and father of the baby.
“She always always wanted a baby,” Olmeda said.
On October 1, Gabe went into cardiac arrest. The family was present and their prayers seemed to have been answered when the medical team was able to revive her.
“We thought we lost her,” Olmeda said.
Mom and dad leaned on Akuna’s bed, trying to comfort her as she continued her agonizing effort to stay alive.
“At that moment her eyes were rolling, her mouth was open, her tongue was hanging out, and it was like, ‘Oh my God, don’t make her feel this anymore,'” Olmeda said.
“We went from praying, ‘God, please, let her live,’ to that night we were so defeated that we came home and prayed for ‘God, please take her,’ for how much suffering she had for so long.”
But it stabilized in the coming days.
“Somehow, I’m just starting to get better, which is a miracle,” Olmeda said.
But now the new mother’s lungs are the biggest concern. The family says doctors have recommended a double transplant. The family further reported that Keck Medicine at USC accepted her as a candidate for one.
“Gabe is a perfect candidate,” Olmeda said. “She is young and has passed all the tests needed for her to be accepted into USC. Centennial Hills Hospital told us her insurance agreed to take her to USC for a lung transplant. There are no words to describe that moment.”
On October 6, despair turned to hope when the family was told Akuna would be transferred from a Las Vegas hospital to the University of Southern California between 6 and 7 p.m. A nurse told them the next call would come when Akunna was up in the air.
Then the parents answered the phone to learn that the helicopter had flown without it.
“How can they tell us to have our hopes up and then suddenly not?” asked Olmeda. “How cruel is that?”
She made a file GoFundMe Page Seeking to raise $2.5 million, external cost of double lung transplant with aftercare. She pledged that any unused money would go to others who needed transplants.
“Who will fight on our side?” Olmeda wrote on the page. “I pray for everyone who let their helicopters fly! Shame on you for taking away our hope.”
She’s fighting. Well Gabes, if this is your war, we are all your soldiers. We are fighting with you. Gabe’s only hope for a life as normal as you can get is a lung transplant, Olmeda continued. “.
On the page is a picture of Akuna in her hospital bed with an extract of a Ryden baby blanket from the nurses in the NICU. The family put it out of her nose on Saturday.
So you can smell it, Olmeda said. “Just looking at her closed her eyes and smelled her baby for the first time. It was heartbreaking.”
On Saturday, Akuna also got her first look at her son, via live video from the NICU. She was on her second day and seemed reoriented enough to understand what was going on. But she remained on a ventilator and was unable to speak upon seeing little Raiden.
“She’s crying and you can tell it’s such a loud cry, but nothing comes out,” Olmeda said. But tears fall. terrible. It is very torturous. She tries to speak while she looks at us. Looking back like, “How can I help you?”
Help comes in the person of this infant who now weighs 2.02 lbs.
“Being able to see her baby now and she’s conscious enough to really understand what’s going on, it gives her a lot of hope,” Olmeda said. “She has these moments where she’s so happy to see him and then just like it, she breaks down.”
Then she redeems herself and struggles to be with Raiden.
She’s fighting. She’s like, I have to see my child. Olmeda said. “
On Monday, Akuna sat on the edge of the bed.
“With help, of course,” Olmeda said. “If you could have seen her three days ago, that’s a miracle.”
Akuna still has four tubes in her chest that need constant attention to keep her ruptured lungs from collapsing. The family says their best hope for a good life with their son remains a transplant.
Olmeda made a profile Youtube video About Akuna and her ordeal titled “Nevada Medicaid New Mom’s Try to Survive Covid-19 Rejected a Long Transplant. Help Save Her Life!”
I also wrote a letter to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, after hearing he was the only person with the authority to make an exception to the state’s Medicaid transplant rule. She is waiting for a response.
Centennial declined to comment. Neither Kick Medicine nor the Nevada governor’s office could be reached for comment.
On October 18, Akuna turns 30, and Olmeda knows what the perfect present would be.
“It would be the best gift,” she said: “You’re approved, Gabby!” “Happy birthday. You get those lungs.”
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