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Woman with Down syndrome given hero’s sendoff after beating COVID


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    NEW YORK (WCBS) — A young woman who has battled the odds throughout her life most recently beat COVID-19.

On Tuesday, she got a surprise from the doctors and nurses who helped save her life, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.

Gabriella Acosta is tough. After a frightening bout with COVID one year ago, she’s celebrating her 21st birthday.

The pediatric staff who cared for her at Staten Island University Hospital surprised her with a birthday party that had a wrestling theme, fitting for this avid fan and the fighter she turned out to be.

When asked if there was anything she wanted to say to the doctors who helped make her better, Acosta said, “I guess thanks. I’m a bit nervous.”

And who could blame Gabi for being nervous? After all, there were television news cameras welcoming her back to the hospital for a reunion with her doctors.

“She seems to be doing well. This is a very big good feel-good moment,” said Dr. Pamela Feuer, Staten Island University Hospital’s director of Pediatric Critical Care.

Acosta, who has Down syndrome, was the hospital’s first pediatric patient with severe COVID pneumonia, which in her case was complicated by asthma and diabetes.

The hospital staff already knew Acosta. She had been hospitalized there in 2017 for pneumonia. But during the pandemic only her mother could be by her side. Her father could only see her virtually.

“The first day she got admitted I was not allowed upstairs, and I just sat outside for a couple of hours. You feel hopeless, you know,” Tony Acosta said. “She’s my angel.”

“I had to make all the decisions by myself. It was terrifying,” mother Elizabeth Acosta said.

Fearing the worst, Elizabeth never left her daughter’s bedside for the near month she was hospitalized, which included Gabi being intubated for two weeks.

“I kept talking to her every night. I was like, ‘Gabriella, we both gotta leave out here together. I cannot leave you behind,’” she said.

After what was experimental treatment at the time, Gabi was finally breathing on her own.

The pediatric department gave her a hero’s sendoff when she was well enough to go home.

Now, she’s back riding her trike, which dad fitted with lights, and she’s definitely regained her spunk.

She capped off her hospital visit grateful that she’s getting stronger every day.

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