Maria was 19 years old and pregnant with her second child. Her husband drove a truck and was gone for months at a time. Her family lived far away. The only person Maria had to talk to was her daughter, 3-year-old Lucky.
So when Maria heard about the Survival program at La Semilla Church, she was eager to join.
“I was four months pregnant when I started going to the project,” says Maria. “I loved going to the group meetings and learning about keeping a clean home. My favorite story that I learned was about an important mother in the Bible, Mary. She became like a role model to me.”
Maria never missed a group activity, and she always eagerly welcomed visits by Vilma and Noemi, two of the Survival staff members. But when Maria was six months pregnant, she began to feel ill. Her body ached, and she ran a fever. Doctors dismissed her complaints, giving her medication for a urinary tract infection.
Slowly, Maria began to feel better. But she had no idea that the symptoms she had experienced were those of the Zika virus. She had only vague knowledge of the virus that had consumed the news. And even if she had known about the risks to herself, a pregnant woman, she couldn’t have afforded the mosquito repellant and nets to protect herself. She could buy 5 kilos of rice for the cost of one bottle of repellant!
So for Maria, there were no precautions. Even when an ultrasound revealed that her baby’s head measured smaller than normal, Maria didn’t think about Zika.
“I thought it was just because I hadn’t been eating enough in my pregnancy,” says Maria.
The night Maria went into labor marked the beginning of a difficult journey with her baby boy. At 9 p.m., she began having contractions. She walked to the clinic where nurses told her to go home; she wasn’t “ready” yet.
Terrified and alone, Maria walked back home to wait. Her husband saw the fear in his wife’s eyes, and he called Vilma and Noemi. The two women arrived at Maria’s house and immediately called for an ambulance.
But four hours later, no ambulance had arrived.
“We were worried because we could see that Maria was going to have her baby soon,” says Noemi. “We tried to get a car, but it was raining too much to use the roads and her contractions were too strong to move her from her bed. So Vilma and I decided that we would help Maria bring her baby into the world.”
Little Bryan was born at 2 a.m., welcomed by the smiles of his parents and the Survival workers. But when Vilma came to visit Bryan a few weeks later, she noticed something alarming.