Born prematurely after mom battles COVID-19: Alexander’s story

The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing when Kristina Cevallos found out she was pregnant with her second child — a boy.

But, at 27 weeks, she was hospitalized with COVID-19. Five weeks later, her son was born prematurely at 33 weeks—weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces. He was cared for at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHOC.  

While this could have been a dire situation for the family, the swift, comprehensive and compassionate care that CHOC provided made all the difference. Her son, Alexander, is now healthy and thriving.

Paul, Athena, Alexander and Kristina

All kinds of thoughts were flashing through Kristina’s mind when she was hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at St. Joseph Hospital, next door to CHOC —above all, she was concerned for her baby.

Finding her calm

“It was hard trying to be calm and composed,” Kristina recalls.

In the back of her mind, she thought about the complications she had five years ago when her daughter, Athena, was born at 28 weeks prematurely. But, that was pre-COVID-19.

Kristina’s ICU medical team monitored her closely to treat not only her COVID-19 symptoms but to ensure her baby’s wellness. After two weeks of treatment, she returned home. Just three weeks later, her son was born. Tiny Alexander was rushed to NICU at CHOC, where he spent three weeks under the expert and the kind-hearted care of his medical team.

Technology lends a hand

The family was able to monitor Alexander’s progress thanks to technology.

NICView uses iPad cameras placed in NICU isolettes to allow families to watch their babies from home. Kristina says Athena was able to use the time to virtually bond with her new brother. And, when he came home on March 13, 2021, she made up for lost time.

“She definitely smothers him with hugs and kisses!” says Kristina.

Alexander and Athena enjoying a nap together

The NicoBoard, which was designed by the father of another CHOC NICU patient, also helped tremendously during Alexander’s NICU stay. The NicoBoard is a tablet-based application that takes the stream of numbers pulled from a baby’s electronic medical record and translates it into easily understood, simple sentences, along with graphs and charts.

“I put my faith in the doctors, nurses and God,” Kristina says.

She appreciated the compassion of Alexander’s team. They were always there to give her and her husband, Paul, reassurance and peace of mind.

“It felt like I was talking with friends! It’s not easy coming to the NICU—one of us at a time, Paul or me—so it was nice to talk easily and comfortably with Alexander’s team,” recalls Kristina.

CHOC Hospital was named one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in its 2020-21 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings and ranked in the neonatology specialty.