A Connecticut teacher stepped up in a big way when she took in a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s premature newborn baby during the start of the pandemic.
Luciana Lira, a bilingual teacher at Hart Magnet Elementary in Stamford, got an unexpected call from one of her student’s moms in April 2020.
Zully, gravely ill with COVID-19 and about to give birth, was breathless as she said: “Miss Lira?” she said in Spanish. “I need help.”
Marvin, Marvin’s husband, was worried that Junior and the woman were also infected. When they tested positive, their fears were confirmed.
The couple lost their jobs during the global health crisis. They were also without any income or relatives in the country.
With no family nearby who could look after their premature newborn, they listed Junior’s elementary school teacher as their emergency contact.
Zully called Luciana during the urgent phone call and asked her to call Marvin. Luciana didn’t know him at the time, as she had only seen him from a distance on parent-teacher conference night.
But after his sick wife’s request, Luciana called him, speaking Spanish, and he was scared.
“All he could do is cry. And cry. And cry,” Luciana recalled. “She was five weeks early. He said, ‘I’m just terrified. I don’t know what’s going on in my life.’”
Even though Marvin hesitated to ask Luciana to look after their baby, the latter knew that’s what she wanted to do.
“I said, ‘Don’t even say it because I’m going to,’” she said. “‘You don’t even have to ask. My answer is yes.’”
Marvin insisted on speaking with Luciana’s husband, Alex—who knows a bit of Spanish—to make sure he was okay with the arrangement.
Luciana was aware that the family needed an interpreter at their hospital. She went to the hospital to receive information on their behalf. She even communicated to their family members from Guatemala.
Zully gave birth to her baby boy, Zully, 12 ounces and 5 pound, one day after the call. She was doing very poorly, and doctors thought she wasn’t going to make it at one point.
The precious bundle of joy she gave birth to was named Neysel. The premature newborn was released from the hospital after five days.
Luciana hadn’t had a baby in her house for over a decade, so she had no choice but to get ready. She spread the word and donations began to come in. People donated food and supplies. A school colleague set up a gift registry to help with baby items.
A nurse carried baby Neysel in a cart to the waiting area on the day of her discharge. Luciana, wearing protective gear from head to toe, greeted the newborn while Marvin recorded the moment with his phone.
The scene broke Luciana’s heart. She said: “I just felt extremely depressed and sad. It’s a stranger who’s taking the baby home.”
Luciana was working at home full-time during the day and Neysel waking up at night made it very exhausting. She barely slept, but she’s glad that the baby was healthy and doing fantastic.
While at the Lira’s home, the Flores family only saw Neysel on Zoom or in photographs. Six weeks later, Neysel returned home after all the health scares.
Luciana also started a GoFundMe page to help the family. It raised $54,960, which is more than the $25,000 goal.
To be able do what this teacher did to baby Neysel, his parents, and his family takes extraordinary kindness. What an incredible human being!
The video below shows Luciana meeting baby Neysel.
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