A micro preemie who spent four months in the neonatal intensive care unit during COVID-19 has reunited with the hospital staff who saved her life.
Mikayla Petti was born at 24 weeks weighing 1 pound, 9 ounces on Feb. 15, 2020. She arrived 16 weeks early inside mom and dad Maria and Andrew Petti's vehicle on the way to St. Joseph's emergency room in Bethpage, New York.
"Mikayla arrived inside my pant leg," Maria Petti of Farmingdale, New York, told "Good Morning America. "We got to the hospital, my husband ran inside and said, 'My wife had a baby in the car.'"
Dr. John Mathew, director of emergency medicine and associate chief medical officer for progressive emergency physicians at St. Joseph's approached the Pettis and took baby Mikayla in his hands.
"He said, 'She's really small. I'm going to do the best that I can,'" Petti recalled.
The hospital was not equipped with a NICU nursery. Mikayla was placed in an infant warmer and Dr. Mathew worked on her for 90 minutes before she was transported to another hospital.
"Along with a child's first breath, once we clamp the cord everything changes for a child," Mathew told "GMA." "We were prepared, but in a little bit of shock."
"Typically at 24 weeks, that's a very critical point for the child regardless of what resuscitation I give that child," he added.
The transport team from North Shore University Hospital’s NICU arrived at St. Joseph's and were able to intubate Mikayla and put her on life support. Petti and Mikayla were then both transferred to the Manhasset, New York, hospital where Mikayla spent the first 122 days of her life.
Due to the pandemic, NICU visitations eventually became limited to one parent a day for one hour. The Pettis held Mikayla for the first time 10 days after she was born.
Mikayla had a heart surgery for a murmur. Her weight now is 9 pounds, 3 ounces and she is thriving.
"She rolled over for the first time," Petti said of her daughter. "She's defying all odds of what a micro preemie baby should be doing."
On Aug. 5, Maria, Andrew and Mikayla Petti were reunited with the doctors and nurses who saved Mikayla's life.
Mathew had been checking in with the family since Mikayla left his hospital.
"We have this young life who wants to survive despite all the death we've seen [during COVID-19]," Mathew said. "It was really precious to see this little girl who knows how to fight all obstacles."
Petti said Mathew deserves to be honored.
"For what he did, and his skills he had to save my baby," she added.
Given her birth story, the Petti family hope Mikayla will consider a career as a NICU nurse when she grows up.