NewsPinellas County


19-year-old battling COVID-19 unable to meet her newborn

The baby was delivered by cesarean section
Posted at 8:57 PM, Sep 09, 2021

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — A 19-year-old who is hospitalized with COVID-19 is waiting to meet her newborn.

Valerie Rabelo had a cough and a headache. She later tested positive for COVID-19 and developed pneumonia. She was admitted to the hospital on August 26.

During her pregnancy, she also was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and pre-eclampsia.

She delivered her son, Tanner, about 2.5 weeks early on August 29 by an emergency cesarean section.

Valerie Rabelo baby Tanner.png

"I asked the nurse to just grab my phone real quick and take some pictures of him before they took him away. I knew they weren't going to let me hold him or anything," said Valerie Rabelo.

Valerie is at a hospital in Pinellas County while her son is at a different hospital.

She has been hospitalized for the past two weeks and is unable to meet her son. She was sedated and on a ventilator. She also suffered seizures. She said she does not remember much after the C-section.

"I honestly...after I woke up I didn't even remember I had a baby," she said.

Valerie was not vaccinated against COVID-19 but urges pregnant women to consider getting a vaccine.

"I never thought I would have to say that, but probably be the best idea to get vaccinated if you're pregnant," she said.

Valerie Rabelo.png

Dr. Brooke Ritter with Women's Care Florida said unvaccinated women who catch the virus are at a greater risk for a preterm birth.

"If the mom is ill then we need to deliver the baby, so the issue becomes then the baby is preterm and has those complications where as the mom is sick from the actual infection," said Dr. Brooke Ritter.

"The main issue we're seeing with COVID and pregnancy is not the baby is getting COVID because we really haven't seen it transmitted through the placenta, but because the COVID makes the mom so ill, she needs to deliver early," she added.

Valerie said she hopes to meet her baby soon. She said she feels better, but needs to regain her ability to walk.

"I can't really walk because I've just been literally in bed for days straight," she said.

Her friends and family are raising money for her medical bills and other expenses on a GoFundMe page.