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Premature birth in the midst of pandemic strands Boston couple in Miami

MIAMI – Nathalia Ashworth was 23 weeks pregnant when she and her husband Aaron left for a planned vacation to the Virgin Islands in February. They never imagined where the journey would ultimately lead.

“A couple of days into vacation, I went into labor and started to have contractions to the point where I needed to go to an urgent care, that’s all St. John’s had, was an urgent care,” she said.

A ferry ambulance took them to a hospital in St. Thomas where the prognosis was bleak.

“They took care of me and tried to slow the labor contractions down and mentioned that if I had may baby there, there was a 10% chance, up to 10%, that she would survive. It was more likely that she would pass,” Ashworth said.

The only chance of survival was a medical flight to Miami where baby Gabriella was born at 24 weeks, weighing just over a pound.

“We have been in the NICU now for over 3 months and she has been through everything you can imagine to fight for her life,” her mom said.

Because of the pandemic, the couple couldn’t go back home to Boston. Stranded in Miami, they turned to the March of Dimes for help.

“Our research is a big part of what helps these families, and they might not see it directly, but if not for all the research that happens, the policies and procedures and life-saving treatments that happen in the NICU as a result of the March of Dimes, this would be different,” said Stacy Myron, with the March of Dimes.

Myron said along with research, guidance and support, they can give couples like the Ashworth’s hope.

“I think what helped her the most was I had another family that has been through a similar experience, so being able to connect them with each other helped,” Myron said. “Her daughter is facing a big fight, but she can come through it.”

For now, the Ashworths are marking milestones on a wall chart in their make-shift Miami home, keeping their focus on a single goal.

“I see us home,” Nathalia said.

The March of Dimes is providing the couple with funding for a med-flight back to Boston, but even when they get there, the battle is far from over.

Baby Gabriella will likely spend several more weeks in the NICU in Massachusetts before she can truly “come home.”


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