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Mother reunites with her baby girl after battling COVID-19 in the hospital for 85 days

An unvaccinated mother who gave birth while battling COVID-19 has finally been reunited with her baby girl at home after spending 85 days recovering in the hospital.  

Paola Gambini, 32, from Groveland, Florida, was 33 weeks pregnant when she tested positive for the virus in late July. When her breathing became labored on July 29, her fiancé Michael Hazen called 911, and she was rushed to the hospital.  

‘I remember the EMT saying, “You’re so lucky you called us. I don’t know that you would have made it,”‘ Gambini told Good Morning America. ‘I was freaking out wondering if I was going to die, if the baby was going to survive.’ 

  

Happy: Paola Gambini, 32, from Groveland, Florida, was finally able to return home to her fiancé Michael Hazen and their newborn daughter last month after her COVID-19 battle 

Fighting for her life: Gambini was 33 weeks pregnant when she tested positive for the virus in late July and was rushed to the hospital after her breathing became labored

Fighting for her life: Gambini was 33 weeks pregnant when she tested positive for the virus in late July and was rushed to the hospital after her breathing became labored

The hairstylist was admitted to the Orlando Health Winne Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, where she delivered her baby via emergency C-section less than 24 hours later. 

Gambini’s daughter, Lilliana, was born several weeks early on July 30 — sharing the same birthday as her father.  

‘I remember touching her and she had so much hair. I’ll never forget that moment. All I cared about was making sure she was okay,’ the mom said. ‘They took her away and were like, “OK, now we’re going to take care of you.”‘

Gambini, who had no pre-existing medical conditions, told WKMG-TV that she thought she could avoid catching COVID-19 by taking certain precautions.  

‘I was one of those people that’s like I’m not going to get vaccinated, I’m just going to be safe or whatever,’ she said. ‘I never imagined I would get COVID, and then for it to happen at the very end of my pregnancy.’ 

Health scare: Gambini, who had no pre-existing medical conditions, said she didn't get vaccinated because she thought she could keep herself safe from the virus

Health scare: Gambini, who had no pre-existing medical conditions, said she didn’t get vaccinated because she thought she could keep herself safe from the virus 

Premature: Gambini gave birth to her daughter, Lilliana, via emergency C-section on July 30, less than 24 hours after she was admitted to the hospital

Premature: Gambini gave birth to her daughter, Lilliana, via emergency C-section on July 30, less than 24 hours after she was admitted to the hospital 

Recovery: Gambini was still in the hospital when her medical team arranged a surprise reunion with Lillian in honor of her birthday on September 3

Recovery: Gambini was still in the hospital when her medical team arranged a surprise reunion with Lillian in honor of her birthday on September 3

After giving birth to her daughter, she was transferred to Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit, where she spent nearly three months.  

The new mom was placed on a ventilator for two weeks, and then later an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, a life-support system that assists a person’s blood circulation. 

Gambini was hooked up to the ECMO machine for a total of 42 days while Hazen cared for Lilliana with the help of both sets of their parents. 

As she continued to recover from COVID complications and her health started to improve, her medical team arranged a surprise reunion with Lillian in honor of her birthday on September 3.  

‘They let me hold her, but I was so weak, I didn’t want to drop her. My arms were so weak,’ she told GMA.  

Big day: Gambini was finally able to return home to her family on October 22, nearly three months after she was first admitted to the hospital

Big day: Gambini was finally able to return home to her family on October 22, nearly three months after she was first admitted to the hospital

Long road: The mom lost 80 pounds and was left with a damaged left lung after her COVID-19 battle. She is still on oxygen while continuing her recovery at home

Long road: The mom lost 80 pounds and was left with a damaged left lung after her COVID-19 battle. She is still on oxygen while continuing her recovery at home 

Making memories: Gambini, who is happy she is strong enough to hold her daughter, came home just in time for Lilliana's first Halloween

Making memories: Gambini, who is happy she is strong enough to hold her daughter, came home just in time for Lilliana’s first Halloween 

Gambini knew she had a long road to recovery, but she was determined to return home to her baby girl. She was worried about her quality of life post-COVID, but the nurses encouraged her to focus on her rehabilitation. 

She was finally able to return home to her family on October 22 — nearly three months after she was first admitted to the hospital.   

‘COVID really attacked my lungs, so half of my left lung is damaged. I get winded if I walk too fast,’ she said. ‘And I lost 80 pounds so my body is rebuilding its strength.’

Gambini, who is still on oxygen, is grateful that she is able to hold Lilliana and care for her now that she is home. 

‘I got out of the car by myself and walked into my own house and I didn’t think I’d be able to do that,’ she said of her homecoming. ‘And now I’m changing my daughter’s diapers and rocking her, and those are things I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do.’

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