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Mom battles back from COVID-19 to hold newborn son

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was a battle Consuelo Rodriguez nearly lost.

Pregnant with her second child, Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19 just before Thanksgiving 2021.

“COVID is real. That is true. I mean, it is. We still have people that doubt,” Rodriguez said Tuesday as she continued her recovery, including physical therapy at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

It’s a long walk from where she was seven months ago.

“Both my lungs collapsed. So rebuilding all of that back, it takes a lot out of me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not the disabilities. It’s the abilities. I’m learning to thrive on what I can do and where I’m going from here.”

When she tested positive, Rodriguez figured she’d be over the illness in a few days. But she got worse.

“I could feel the baby move a lot. We went into emergency right away and never left (the hospital) for seven months,” Rodriguez said.

She recently came across a text she sent to her husband, who was kept away from her bedside because of COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, telling him that doctors had ordered a cesarean section.

“And I told my husband, ‘You do whatever you need to do for my kids. My kids come first,’” Rodriguez said. “But I don’t have any memory of that. I don’t have any memory of (giving) birth. It was an emergency C-section, and I believe they intubated me before I could even deliver because of the risk. “

Samuel Rodriguez came into the world at 33 weeks but was healthy.

Rodriguez was hospitalized in Grand Rapids, then transferred to a Detroit-area hospital and eventually to University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. Her organs were failing. She was placed on dialysis and ECMO, a machine that circulates blood to exchange carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen, reserved for the most critically ill patients. At one point, the family was called in to say goodbye.

Rodriguez’s husband Alex Rodriguez split his time between the hospital when he was allowed to visit and the couple’s Grandville home with their 6-year-old daughter and their newborn son.

“Even today, I look at (Samuel) and I’m just so thankful of how strong my wife is. Everything she went through to save him to protect him,” Alex Rodriguez said.

Consuelo Rodriguez didn’t give up. Neither did the doctors and her medical team. In February, she began to awaken. A month later, Rodriguez was strong enough to meet the son she had delivered three months before.

“He was just so big. I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Did I give birth to that big of a baby?’” Consuelo Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t hold him physically. They would lay him on the bed with me but I had no movement in my arms or anything.”

Samuel Rodriguez.
Samuel Rodriguez. (Courtesy Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital)

Rodriguez moved to Mary Free Bed to begin her rehabilitation in May.

She and her husband credit the skill of her caregivers, the doctors, nurses and other medical workers who wouldn’t give up. They also credit their faith. Both say they have learned much about adversity and beating the odds. They hope their story helps others who struggle.

“I just tell people to stay positive,” Consuelo Rodriguez said. “Look at what can be.”

*Correction: A previous version of this article contained an incorrect timeline for when Rodriguez was moved between hospitals and when she woke up. We regret the error, which has been corrected.

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