Her story began one thanksgiving weekend last year, during a vacation in Latin America with her husband. At that time, 33-year-old Satu Finn from Washington, D.C. was 11 weeks pregnant.
“I had never heard of Zika,” she said in a NBC News report. “There was no reason to suspect Zika.”
Satu believes that she had been bitten by an infected mosquito in Guatemala that November.
It had been months before anyone suspected Zika had invaded the country, mere weeks before world health officials had fully accepted that Zika could cause birth defects.
“If I had known then, I would have protected myself better,” she said.
CDC’s warning against Zika didn’t officially roll out until January 2016, at which point it had already been too late for Satu.
As soon as they left South America, she fell ill.
“I thought I had caught the flu or a cold on the airplane,” she recalled. “I was just a bit more tired than usual.”
Then the rash appeared on her skin—first on her chest, then her face and arms. It didn’t itch or hurt. It was just there.
“It just looked weird,” she said.
Worried, she went to the doctor, who told her not to worry about it. But then her husband developed similar signs as well, but test results cleared him of malaria.
Eventually, both of them felt better and recovered. But something was telling Satu something was not right, and it was only through her insistence did she find out about the condition.
“You always remain hopeful,” Satu said. “Even when I found out my symptoms matched the Zika disease, I wanted to find out the worse-case scenario. Of course it was dreadful, but even in the midst of the horror you think there is a small chance it will be OK.”
In late January, an ultrasound revealed some evidence of brain damage in her unborn child, and the prognosis wasn’t good.
Even if the child was brought to term, they would likely never be able to walk or talk and would need constant, 24/7 care through their life.
At 21 weeks, Satu decided to terminate her pregnancy.
Despite losing her unborn child, Satu remained cheerful, physically fit, and determined to learn as much as possible about Zika and its effects not only on herself but on the rest of the world, as well as on her personally.
The virus also made Satu a case study for doctors.
She donated her own medical tests and her fetus to science, hoping that the doctors will understand how the virus works, particularly how it damages an unborn child.
After the examination of the fetus, doctors discovered worse than what the scan suggested: They located the virus in the brain, the placenta, in muscles, the liver, the lungs and spleen.
“I had the option of terminating the pregnancy,” Satu said. “Here in the U.S. people can mostly decide when they want to be pregnant and when they don’t want to be pregnant. In Latin America, they mostly don’t have that choice.”
It is estimated that Zika has already infected thousands or even millions of people across central and South America and the Caribbean.
The sad thing is most of these people are poor.
But Satu’s greatest fear is that people wouldn’t take Zika’s threat seriously, especially since an infection doesn’t cause symptoms for most people.
“It’s actually everybody who could spread the virus,” she said. “Even here in D.C. you can get bitten and not know it. You wouldn’t know you were spreading the virus.”
As for Satu, she is no longer have evidence of Zika in her body. Her husband, too, is rid of the virus.
Both will never forget the their harrowing ordeal with the virus, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting still to build a family together.
“Me and my husband would want to have a child, so I think it’s in the planning.”
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