A woman who was in a coma with Covid while pregnant has told how she woke up the day after her baby was born.
When Marriam Ahmad went into the Grange hospital in Cwmbran in January after testing positive for Covid, she left her overnight bag at home as she did not expect to be in for long.
At only 29 weeks pregnant, she and husband Usman had not even decided on a name for their second child.
But Marriam’s condition quickly went downhill.
The 27-year-old paralegal, who has asthma, found herself in a “very scary” situation.
“All of a sudden, my oxygen mask was on a much higher setting – I couldn’t hear properly,” she said.
“It was very loud. I had someone washing my face, looking after me. I was very weak.”
It was then that her doctor started to talk about a Caesarean section and initially said that Marriam would be conscious throughout.
But she was told that her baby may not be strong enough to survive.
As the day went on, the medical team decided Marriam needed to be put into a coma. The doctor held her hand as he told her she “may not come back”.
“It just happened so quickly,” she said. “It was within about five minutes, they told me ‘you’re going on a ventilator, you’re having a c-section, the baby’s going to come out, you’ll be unconscious, you might not make it. Say goodbye’.”
Marriam called her parents in Swansea and the doctor rang her husband, who was at home in Newport with their one-year-old son Yusuf.
“I didn’t even speak to my husband or my son – I have never left my son, not even for a night,” she said.
“I Facetimed my parents and I was crying. It was only like a two-minute phone call – my Mum was like ‘what are you talking about?’. I was lonely and I was scared.”
Marriam’s baby was born on 18 January at 20:27 BST. Known as ‘Baby Ahmad’ for the first few days of her life, she weighed about as much as a bag of sugar – 1.17kg (2.5lbs).
Amazingly, and despite the doctor’s warnings, by midday the next day Marriam had woken up from the coma.
“I had no idea what happened,” she said. ” I woke up. Obviously I could see there was nothing in my stomach anymore and I was in a lot of pain.”
For the next week she was not able to see her baby. The nurses took photos and videos to show Marriam, who was trying to recover herself, by now out of intensive care and in the hospital’s high dependency unit.
All the staff at the hospital were keen to keep up-to-date on how the two were getting on.
“Even the cleaner from ICU remembered me,” she said.
“He used to come up and say ‘how are you doing, how is Baby Ahmad? What are you going to call her? Call her something special, call her something special'”.
A strong name for a strong little girl
And so, as Marriam and Usman prepared to meet their daughter after nearly a week, they decided on a name – Khadija.
“In the Islamic faith, Khadija is a very strong, independent woman,” said Marriam.
“From my point of view, my Khadija was very strong. She didn’t have issues, for someone being preterm at 29 weeks. They were telling me all the complications. She didn’t have any of those. It was a miracle.”
So how did it feel to finally see and hold her baby daughter?
“I just found her so beautiful,” she said. “Even though she was covered in all these wires and just in a nappy. I just thought ‘this is my baby’. It felt very natural.”
Khadija was then transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at Singleton hospital in Swansea so Marriam could be closer to her extended family.
The weeks that followed were just as “intense”, with Marriam determined to try and breastfeed her daughter, meaning constant deliveries of milk to the hospital.
After eight weeks in hospital, Khadija is now home. At three-and-a-half months, she is happy, healthy and feeding well – now weighing nearly 4kg (8.8lbs).
Marriam admits that life with a newborn and a 16-month-old means she “hasn’t really had time to think” about what has happened.
“I am just so grateful – that she’s still alive, that I am still alive.
“Even though it was such a horrific, traumatic experience, I just found myself being even more grateful for the little things. Just spending time with family.
“Make the most of every opportunity and be grateful – that’s what I’ve taken from it.”