SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A pregnant San Jose woman caught the flu and ended up losing her baby.
Maria Paniagua was seven months pregnant when she caught the flu, which was so strong and powerful that it brought both mother and unborn child to the brink of death.
Diana Barron Gonzalez is the best friend of the mother. She said, “It was so, so severe that they couldn’t do a cesarean when the baby’s heartbeat was not viable.”
Gonzalez says the illness forced doctors and family members to make a difficult decision.
“If they would have operated on her with the cesarean, they would have lost her, or the child or both,” she said.
Maria Paniagua is the mother of four other children.
Doctors put Maria Paniagua in a medically induced coma to help with her breathing because she had also developed pneumonia.
The baby girl, named Dulce Estrella which means sweet star, was stillborn a day later on January 11th.
“She was not aware that the baby had died inside of her,” Gonzalez said.
Maria Paniagua’s mother says her daughter is still drifting in and out of sleep, but she now knows what happened.
“I hold her hand very tight. I say, this is your mom. I’m here. And she opened her eyes a little and she was very excited to see me. But she’s really affected that she lost her baby, her little girl,” said Jocabeth Barraza Hernandez, Maria Paniagua’s mother.
Gonzalez says Maria Paniagua had not gotten a flu shot and kept working two jobs even when she had a soaring fever to help provide for her children and mother, who all live together in a San Jose apartment.
“She kept working. And there was a time when she told me she could not see. And I told her she needed to go home and rest and sleep. But she was stressed about, you know, making a payment for her car and the rent or anything,” Gonzalez said.
Jocabeth Barraza Hernandez says her daughter and the family have all learned a painful lesson.
“Be careful with the flu, with influenza. So be very careful with that if you’re pregnant. You go into the hospital and either you or your baby can survive, but maybe not either one survive. Both can die.”
Fortunately, the mother is still alive and recovering at the Valley Medical Center at San Jose.
Funeral arrangements for the little girl are pending until the mother’s release from the hospital.
Pregnant women do face more danger from the flu than non-pregnant women and are more likely to be hospitalized.
There is also some evidence that the flu can cause birth defects, particularly because of the high fever.
The CDC recommends that pregnant woman get the flu shot, they say it is safe and it can also help the baby for several months, even after it is born.