When this radiologist looked at the x-ray, she saw the COVID-ravaged lungs of a pregnant patient. Then she saw the name. ‘This is my nanny’ – .

When this radiologist looked at the x-ray, she saw the COVID-ravaged lungs of a pregnant patient. Then she saw the name. ‘This is my nanny’ – .

They told Lola Saliko that she must have the baby, and despite the feverish fog of COVID-19, she remembers it. Doctors told her that she was not safe, that the baby was not safe, and that they were going to put her to sleep. She had no idea she would be intubated the next day, or that her husband with COVID couldn’t care for the baby, or what would happen next. No one did, at the time. At the time, she was just another COVID patient who was in danger of dying.

“My husband told me that (when I was intubated) it was like in the movies, you know? Lola, 27, says now. “‘If you hear me please move your hands or touch my hands’ you know? That’s what he asked me all the time. And he said I did that: like I touched his hands and moved my head to confirm that I was listening to him.

“In fact, I never saw my baby. I just gave birth and they took the baby away. I was intubated right after. I never woke up.

A few days later, Dr. Elsie Nguyen was looking at chest x-rays. She’s a cardiothoracic radiologist, and her job was heavy, and her mother was battling a serious brain tumor, and every day was a lot. There were several pregnant women in the intensive care units in Toronto, but this patient was perhaps the sickest. “Look at this,” Elsie’s colleague said. ” It’s bad. “

And Elsie Nguyen looked at the x-ray of the bleached lungs at Toronto General Hospital, and looked at the name – Manjola Saliko. Elsie rechecked the birthday and her heart felt like it had stopped. – It’s Lola, she said. “This is my nanny. She felt like she was going to cry and she gathered her things and said, “I have to go.” “

Lola and her husband Flori came from Albania to Canada because they saw more opportunities there; she had a long history of babysitting, but got a student visa to study business marketing at McMaster. He took a furniture assembly job, and she applied to be a nanny in addition to school, and 18 months ago she was matched with Elsie’s family and her three children: 12, nine and five.

They hit it off. Lola looked after Elsie’s children, taking great care; Elsie did her best to help Lola and pay for the labor as Lola’s pregnancy progressed. They were kind to each other. At eight months pregnant, Lola had to move away and Elsie had to hire a replacement: Elsie baked a cake for the farewell party.

“I had a perfect relationship with her,” Lola says.

It would be the month for Lola to prepare for her first child. But within days, her husband fell with a fever, and she followed up the next day. Her symptoms were mild; she got sicker and sicker and handed in her last homework the day she had to call an ambulance.

And when Elsie saw the radio, she texted Lola’s phone and said, “Flori, if you’re there, call me. And he called, and he was collapsing. They had no family here. He had to go back and forth to the hospital, the baby was in neonatal care, Lola was intubated, he was still COVID-positive. He couldn’t do that.

Elsie didn’t know how long Lola would stay intubated, or if she would be better. All she knew was that Lola was on the verge of death and her husband seemed lost. It may take weeks. It could be more. Elsie became a radiologist because she absorbs the pain of others, and radiology was a safer place, and empathy can sometimes hurt. But more often than not, it helps. So she asked, “Do you want me to take care of the baby?” “

He said yes. ” Please. ”

Elsie picked up baby supplies from a friend; she bought diapers and took time off from work and because she was rusty, she watched a YouTube video about caring for a newborn baby. She didn’t tell her mom: she figured her mom might just say, “You’re taking too much. Elsie didn’t want an argument.

“I don’t know if you believe in karma,” Elsie said. “If you come across at a crossroads where you could do something to help or look away, if you make the wrong choice, it could haunt you for life. “

Flori picked up the baby from the hospital. He followed Elsie’s car to her house. He put back the car seat and little Lorik. In a pandemic, Elsie Nguyen was, by choice, a mom again.

Elsie bottle-fed Lorik, which was easier than when she was breastfeeding her own children, but the first night he would get up every hour in a new environment, and when he was lying down Elsie would lie down at night, resting. drowning in anxiety about Lola, her family, what might be happening. The second night was a bit better; she decided, like many parents, to take everything every moment. Lorik became less frantic: it was as if he treated her more like a mom.

And it was heartwarming and it was heartbreaking, because it was meant to be Lola.

Lorik didn’t cry much; she began to understand his rhythms. The little frustrations of life, the pressure that had built up like a spring, have fallen.

“It was almost like I had given a second chance, all the nonsense I did,” Elsie says. “As a (young) mother, I didn’t know what they wanted: how do I know if they are crying because they are hungry, their diapers are wet or they have gas? I finally succeeded with another person’s baby.

And in the hospital, Lola woke up several days after giving birth and being intubated on April 12, and Flori was there. He explained that Elsie has the baby, she is taking care of the baby, he is fine.



“I didn’t understand,” said Lola, “why is Elsie taking care of the baby? And then I looked at the painting in the room, and it was April 17th. And then I realized that the days had passed.

She was glad it was Elsie, but she wanted to be with her child. Flori was showing her the photos Elsie sent her and Lola liked her, but couldn’t watch the photos, the videos, anything. She had tubes in her throat, but shook her head no. She refused.

“It was like looking at another baby, like I don’t know, Instagram babies, you know?” Lola said. “As if it wasn’t my son I was looking at.

“It was so hard for me. It took me a while to realize what happened, what really happened and my first baby, and I never imagined it would be like this, ever. I thought it would be magic to wait for the baby to arrive, you know? But it didn’t turn out like that.

Lola was terribly upset, but never cried in the hospital, as she feared that if she cried, she would lose her breath again and would have to get better. A few days after waking up, the tubes came out. She was released soon after.

“They said it was like a miracle that my body reacted like this,” she said.

And six days after Elsie greeted Lorik, Lola came home, showered, and went to Elsie’s. It was a quick transfer because of COVID; Lola wanted to hug Elsie so badly – “I’m forever grateful to them, to her and her family, of course,” Lola says. But she couldn’t.

So Lola was a mother, really, for the first time. She was overwhelmed.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, how can I hold it now?’ “, she says. “He was so small, you know, and I felt like Elsie was taking very good care of him. Was I going to do the same for him? I was so anxious at the time.

The estrangement lasted three weeks: Lorik would cry, and she would wonder if he loved her. It was fanciful but real. She didn’t know what to do.

When Lola had been in the hospital, Elsie had taken a partially used journal from her daughter Sophia’s room and had written “Lorik’s Story” there. And between her daughter’s drawings and notes, Elsie wrote down what Lorik liked, what he didn’t like, her rhythms, how to change her diaper. She wanted Lola to know, if she had the chance.

Babies don’t come with textbooks. Lorik did it. He’s her baby now. More insecurity, more uncertainty. It’s hers.

“It’s the best feeling, I think, the best feeling,” says Lola. “Like the baby, now I feel like I should have felt a long time ago, you know?” Now I feel he’s my baby. I can take care of him, I feel much more secure when I hold him; like I think now it’s back to normal, like how I should have felt.

Elsie’s mother, meanwhile, no longer always recognizes people: she may be disappearing, piece by piece. But Elsie’s mother found out that Elsie was taking care of the nanny’s baby. And her mother said, “I’m proud of you. You are doing a good thing for someone. Good for you. “

“She’s just the person she is,” Elsie said, through tears.

The pandemic has stripped away what makes us human and deepened our humanity; he forced separation and brought people together. It was the first crisis in our lives to come to everyone’s door, and it took and messed up and ruined so much, and people were at our best as we always are and always will be. When we take care of each other.


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