PHENIX City, - Amanda Harrison can sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotion while feeding her baby girl. She has to wipe away the tears of gratitude. She is blessed to be holding her baby.
Harrison was 29 weeks pregnant and had not been vaccinated when she contracted COVID-19 in august. Although her symptoms were initially mild, she soon felt that she couldn't breath. She was born in Phenix, Alabama. After being intubated, she was flown to Birmingham. There, doctors delivered baby Lake two weeks early and placed Harrison on life support.
Kyndal Nipper is a Kyndal Nipper from outside Columbus, Georgia. She had a short bout with COVID-19, but it led to a much more tragic end. When she lost her baby, which she and her husband had planned to name Jack, she was just weeks away from giving birth.
Harrison and Nipper now share their stories to convince pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccines to protect their baby and themselves. These warnings came amid an increase in severely ill pregnant mothers that saw 22 women die from COVID in August. This is a record for the month.
Nipper stated that she and her husband made a promise to do everything in our power to educate the boy and advocate for him.
Harrison stated that she would "nicely argue until the bitter end" for pregnant women to get vaccinated, "because it could literally spare your life."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the pandemic started, there have been more than 125,000 cases and 161 deaths among pregnant women who contracted COVID-19. In the last few months, doctors and hospitals in hot areas have seen a dramatic increase in severely ill pregnant women.
The CDC issued an urgent advisory to pregnant women on September 29 urging them to get vaccinated. Only 31% of all pregnant women in the country are currently vaccinated. The agency warned that COVID-19 can lead to preterm births and other adverse outcomes in pregnancy. Stillbirths have also been reported.
Assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's maternal-fetal medicine department, Dr. AkilaSubramaniam said that the hospital witnessed a significant increase in critically ill pregnant mothers in July and August. According to her, a study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that the delta variant COVID-19 was associated with higher rates of severe illness in pregnant women and an increase in preterm births.
Is it that the delta variant is more infectious, or because the severity of delta is greater? Subramaniam stated that he doesn't believe we have the right answer.
Harrison, 36, decided to wait until COVID-19 vaccines were made available to pregnant women in their respective states. Nipper, 29 was also a waiting man. Although the shots were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, they weren't available to pregnant women in studies that resulted in emergency authorization. Initial guidance didn't recommend full vaccination. In August, Pfizer shots were officially approved.
These women live on opposite sides the Alabama-Georgia border, which was hard hit by the delta variant this summer.
Nipper's symptoms were subtler than Harrison's and she had to be placed on life support. Eight months into her pregnancy, she developed a fever and lost her senses of smell. Although the symptoms disappeared quickly, Jack did not seem to be as active as he was before. She tried a caffeinated drink, but it didn't work. She went to Columbus, Georgia for fetal monitoring. The medical staff gave the bad news: Baby Jack was dead.
Nipper stated that Nipper was supposed to bring him into the world within three weeks. "And for them to tell you that there is no heartbeat or movement
Timothy Villegas, Nipper's doctor said that testing revealed that the virus was present in the placenta and showed signs of inflammation similar those seen in people who have died from COVID-19.
Villegas stated that the infection probably caused the baby's death because it affected its ability to absorb oxygen and nutrients. Villegas said that he had since heard of similar cases from other doctors.
He said, "We are at the point where everyone is starting to raise some red Flags."
Cheree Melton is a family medicine physician and professor at the University of Alabama. She said that about half-a dozen unvaccinated patients with COVID-19 have lost their unborn children to miscarriages and stillbirths. This problem has been exacerbated by delta's spread.
She said, "It's extremely heartbreaking to tell moms that they will never be able to hold their living child." "We have had that to do more than I can remember over the past couple of years."
Melton stated that she encourages all pregnant women who aren't vaccinated to get them, but many haven’t. She stated that misinformation and rumors have been a problem.
She said, "I get everything from, ‘Well, somebody told you that it may cause my to be infertile in future’ to, ‘It may damage my baby’."
Nipper stated that she wished she had asked more questions regarding the vaccine. She said, "Looking back, it's clear that I did everything I could to ensure his health." "The only thing that I didn’t do and will have to carry is the fact that I didn’t get the vaccine."
Harrison, who is now at home with her healthy baby, says she feels deep gratitude, tempered by survivor's guilt.
"I cry all of the time. It's the little things. Hugging or feeding my 4-year old. Harrison stated that the thought of them going through life without me is a reality for many people. It was scary, and could have been avoided if I had gotten a vaccine.