27 January 2021

A nurse who gave birth while fighting for her life in hospital with coronavirus has been discharged home to see her baby daughter for the first time in more than two months. 

Eva Gicain, 30, is a nurse at an NHS hospital in London but had been off work since September when she entered the third trimester of pregnancy and her risk of becoming ill with COVID-19 increased.

But when she was 34 weeks pregnant at the end of October, she was rushed Basildon University Hospital in Essex with a severe case of coronavirus. 

With her condition continuing to deteriorate, Eva had an emergency caesarean section and gave birth prematurely at 35 weeks. 

She has no memory of the event nor does she remember then being transferred 10 days later from Basildon to Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge as she fought for her life. 

Eva was admitted to critical care and put onto ECMO – extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – a machine that takes over the job of the lungs by removing carbon dioxide from the blood and adding oxygen. This allows the lungs precious time to recover while treatment for COVID-19 is applied.

'The first thing I remember is waking up just a few days before Christmas'

Royal Papworth Hospital is one of five centres in England commissioned to provide ECMO for adults in acute respiratory failure. The highly-specialised technique is being used to treat coronavirus patients as a last resort when other forms of ventilation have been unsuccessful. 

Aged 30, Eva is one of the youngest patients to receive ECMO for COVID-19 at Royal Papworth Hospital. After being supported by this ‘artificial lung’ for three weeks she was discharged from critical care and transferred to a step-down ward a few days before Christmas, which is where her memory of the experience begins.

“The first thing I remember is just a few days before Christmas and being told where I was, what I had been through and that Elleana was doing well,” Eva said. 

“I was able to regularly video call my husband, Limuel, and Elleana, and we spent a long time on the phone together on Christmas Day, although I couldn’t speak much as my throat was so sore from having been ventilated. 

Eva was applauded by staff when she was discharged from Royal Papworth Hospital

“Not being able to see them in person and touch them was so difficult; I was determined to get home to them as soon as possible.”

Limuel, also 30, has rather more vivid memories of the past few months. While his wife was unconscious in hospital 50 miles away in Cambridge, his daughter spent three weeks in Basildon University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) down the road from the family home. He was unable to visit either of them because he was also fighting his own battle with coronavirus at home.

"I was very unwell so I couldn’t leave the house, never mind visit either my wife or daughter” he said. “It was so horrible the three of us being in separate places at a time when we should all have been together.

“I was finally able to visit Elleana just in time for her being discharged from NICU on 21 November.”

A woman in a wheelchair with NHS staff lining a corridor behind.
Eva leaving Royal Papworth Hospital on 12 January 2021

Once dad and daughter were safely back at home, though, Limuel – who works as a healthcare assistant in palliative care - admits there was a fresh, if slightly less concerning, worry on his mind. 

“We knew we were having a girl and had discussed the name, but I didn’t know how Eva wanted to spell Elleana, which meant I couldn’t yet get her registered. Luckily, I found some personalised pyjamas that Eva had bought which were meant as a Christmas present and so I managed to get the spelling from there!

“My manager at work has been so generous to give me time off throughout this whole period so I can be there for Eva and Elleana: I am so grateful for that.” 

'When I held Elleana for the first time I didn't want to let go'

Following a few more weeks of recovery and rehab with help from the multidisciplinary team, Eva was discharged from her fourth floor bedroom at Royal Papworth Hospital accompanied by a round of applause on Tuesday 12 January and spent her first night back at home with her beautiful family. 

Two weeks on, she is making good progress aided by the reunion with her new arrival. 

“I am feeling much better now,” Eva said a few days after being home. “When I held Elleana for the first time I didn’t want to let go. It was a special moment.

“Life is unpredictable and we are now just looking forward to being a little family and spending time together.”

On 21 January, nine days after Eva arrived home, the three of them celebrated a belated Christmas Day together. 

Elleana, who had been due to arrive in December, is now nearly three months old and doing well.

A man, woman and baby beside a Christmas tree
Eva, Limuel and Elleana celebrated Christmas Day nine days after she returned home in January


For more information about pregnancy and coronavirus, visit the NHS website.