Yanira Soriano woke up in the hospital with COVID-19 last year not realizing she had just given birth to a baby boy.
Soriano almost died twice while nurses were treating her and a cesarean section was performed to deliver her son Walter during efforts to save her life.
Joined Friday by the nurses who helped saved her, Soriano and Walter returned to South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore to celebrate Walter’s first birthday and blow out a candle on a cupcake during a Paw Patrol party with gifts.
"I am so happy to be here, considering it’s been a year," Soriano said through a translator. "I know this is a miracle for myself and my son. I know the conditions I came into the hospital with and all I asked for was to save my son, but you also saved me."
One year ago, South Shore University Hospital was treating 400 patients, including 320 diagnosed with COVID-19, hospital director Donna Moravick said.
Soriano, 37, of Brentwood, was admitted at the hospital April 2 and placed on a ventilator at 34 weeks pregnant. Her son was born a day later.
One of the ICU nurses who took care of her, Denise Mannino, said Soriano was sedated and paralyzed but kept fighting. Mannino said she prayed for God to give her strength to take care of all her patients.
"The day I took care of her, she almost died two times on me that day, and I whispered in her ear, she couldn’t die because she had a baby she had to get home to," Mannino said Friday, choking back tears. "In that room, she fought and fought. She knew her baby was somewhere else and not in her."
A surgical nurse, Aswathy Babu, said Friday was a celebration for Walter, who was cooing and laughing with his mother. Babu said she thought Soriano would overcome the virus given her age, but it was draining waiting for her to wake up.
"I spoke to her and said, ‘You have no choice, you have to wake up. Your whole family is waiting for you,’" Babu said. "Seeing the smile on her face and seeing baby Walter helps the whole world understand to never give up. Her experience during COVID is a good example to people fighting COVID to never give up on your life."
Soriano didn’t hold her son until two weeks after he was born.
"When I woke up, they took me upstairs and came to me and told me I had a baby. I didn’t remember anything," Soriano said. "They showed me a picture and I said, 'Wow, I actually have a baby,' and I became desperate to go home."