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Pregnant mom battles COVID-19, delivers baby while in ICU

Diana Estrada-Arauza and her baby Sergio, now safe at home

UC Davis Health team saves patient and her baby

(SACRAMENTO) —Diana Estrada-Arauza was the picture of health. She was 33 years old and seven months pregnant. No chronic diseases or conditions.


Diana Estrada-Arauza and her baby Sergio, now safe at home

But while on maternity leave this fall, she got sick with COVID-19. She was hospitalized at a nearby hospital and discharged before she was ready.

She knew she needed a second opinion and turned to UC Davis Medical Center, where she works as a postpartum medical-surgical nurse.

“I felt really sick. I couldn’t breathe. I had my dad take me to UC Davis,” said Diana, who said her oxygen saturation level was 84 percent due to the coronavirus. Normal oxygen saturation levels should be between 95 and 100 percent.  

Within minutes of arriving at the UC Davis emergency room, Diana was triaged and rushed into a room, where the team started an IV and put her on oxygen.

After one day in the hospital, she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“I was getting worse and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. She was getting 60 liters of oxygen through a high flow nasal cannula, but it wasn’t helping. “I remember them telling me that if things took a turn for the worse, they would need to intubate me.”


The first time that Diana Estrada-Arauza met her baby Sergio. Here with her baby’s father, Sergio Limon.

She asked if she could call her family and let them how she was doing. She said she squeezed her nurse’s hand while she made that emotional phone call. “I said, ‘Please tell my babies that I love them,” she said.

A tube was placed in her windpipe, which was connected to a ventilator to keep the oxygen flowing.

Shortly after she was intubated, the baby’s heart rate dropped.

“The baby wasn’t doing well, and we needed to get him out,” said Debra Wright, director of maternity services. “We called her partner and let him know that we would need to move forward on an emergency C-section to save her baby’s life.”

Baby Sergio was born at 33 weeks and was intubated in the delivery room for respiratory failure. He was only on a ventilator for a few hours. He tested negative for COVID-19 and stayed in the UC Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 10 days.

“Sergio did very well and only stayed in the NICU to get bigger, keep his temperature normal and learn how to feed,” said UC Davis neonatologist Mark Underwood.

During that time, Diana remained in the ICU. She stayed in prone position, mostly face down for about two weeks.

Diana met Sergio for the first time over Zoom.


Baby Sergio

Among the memories that Diana has from those 30 days in the hospital, she recalls the kindness of her health care team. The nurse who held her hand while she made the difficult call to her family. The team who gathered gifts to welcome her baby. The video tribute her health care team made for her and her baby.

“The team just walked me through this one day at a time. I’m very thankful. They took good care of me. The doctors and nurses were very thorough and reassuring. They helped me with everything I needed in ways that I didn’t even expect,” said Diana.

Now back at home in Sacramento, Diana is happy to be feeling well again and to have her newborn baby Sergio by her side.

“It was a very scary time. I feel very lucky,” said Diana.