A Connecticut teacher stepped up in a big way when she took in a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s premature newborn baby during the start of the pandemic.
Luciana Lira, a bilingual teacher at Hart Magnet Elementary in Stamford, got an unexpected call from one of her student’s moms in April 2020.
Zully, gravely ill with COVID-19 and about to give birth, was breathless as she said: “Miss Lira?” she said in Spanish. “I need help.”
The woman was about to deliver a premature baby, and her husband, Marvin, suspected that he and their son, Junior, might also be infected with the virus. His fears were eventually confirmed when they tested positive.
The couple also lost their jobs at the beginning of the global health crisis, and with no income and other relatives in the country, they were desperate for help.
With no family nearby who could look after their premature newborn, they listed Junior’s elementary school teacher as their emergency contact.
During the urgent phone call, Zully asked Luciana to call Marvin. Luciana didn’t know him at the time, as she had only seen him from a distance on parent-teacher conference night.
But after his sick wife’s request, Luciana called him, speaking Spanish, and he was scared.
“All he could do is cry. And cry. And cry,” Luciana recalled. “She was five weeks early. He said, ‘I’m just terrified. I don’t know what’s going on in my life.'”
Even though Marvin hesitated to ask Luciana to look after their baby, the latter knew that’s what she wanted to do.
“I said, ‘Don’t even say it because I’m going to,'” she said. “‘You don’t even have to ask. My answer is yes.'”
Marvin insisted on speaking with Luciana’s husband, Alex—who knows a bit of Spanish—to make sure he was okay with the arrangement.
Luciana realized the family also needed an interpreter at the hospital, so she went there to receive medical information on their behalf. She even communicated with their family members as far as Guatemala.
One day after the call, Zully delivered her 5-pound, 12-ounce baby boy while in a medically-induced coma. She was doing very poorly, and doctors thought she wasn’t going to make it at one point.
Her precious bundle of joy was eventually named Neysel. After five days in the hospital, the premature newborn was cleared to go home.
It had been over a decade since Luciana had a newborn in the house, so she had to get ready. She spread the word, and donations started coming in. People gave food and supplies, and a colleague from school set up a gift registry for baby items.
On the day of the discharge, a nurse rolled a cart carrying baby Neysel into the waiting area. Wearing head-to-toe protective gear, Luciana greeted the newborn as Marvin recorded the moment from a distance with his phone.
The scene broke Luciana’s heart. She said: “I just felt extremely depressed and sad. It’s a stranger who’s taking the baby home.”
At the time, Luciana was working full-time at home during the day, and with Neysel up at night, the routine became very tiring. She barely slept, but she’s glad that the baby was healthy and doing fantastic.
While at the Lira’s home, the Flores family only saw Neysel on Zoom or in photographs. Six weeks later, the two families met after all the health scares, and Neysel finally went home!
Luciana also set up a GoFundMe to help the family, and it collected $54,960 in donations, way more than the $25,000 goal.
It takes an extraordinary level of kindness to be able to do what this teacher did for baby Neysel and his parents. What an amazing human being!
See the moment Luciana met baby Neysel in the video below.
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