Pregnant without a COVID vaccine means a far higher risk of hospitalizations and death: NPR

Pregnant without a COVID vaccine means a far higher risk of hospitalizations and death: NPR


Scott Baisley is holding his son Sullivan, who was born from COVID-19 shortly before his mother’s death.

Victoria Hansen / South Carolina Public Radio


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Victoria Hansen / South Carolina Public Radio


Scott Baisley is holding his son Sullivan, who was born from COVID-19 shortly before his mother’s death.

Victoria Hansen / South Carolina Public Radio

Kimberly Grice needed a walker during her last month of pregnancy just to get down the hallway of her home near Myrtle Beach, SC to a freshly painted lavender nursery.

The 36-year-old struggled to hang up tiny clothes or organize a changing table. She was hospitalized this summer with COVID-19 and on a ventilator.

She didn’t get the vaccine because she feared it might harm the baby. Doctors now want pregnant women to know it is safe.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for expectant mothers to be vaccinated because complications from COVID can be fatal to both mother and baby. Yet two thirds of pregnant women do not have this.

The Grices and another South Carolina family share their stories of unvaccinated pregnancies in hopes of changing their minds.

Kimberly was rushed to a crowded emergency room in late July, where a six-hour wait revealed she had COVID pneumonia. Her husband Tory shares the rest of the trip that she can’t remember, including the question the doctor kept asking about complications. Whose life should you save first if something goes wrong, Kimberly’s or the baby’s?

“What you’re trying to say is like both of them. But that can’t be the answer,” says Tory.

Kimberly’s liver seemed to be failing when doctors considered an emergency caesarean section after removing her ventilator. But then their health improved and they decided not to give birth nine weeks earlier.

“You are a miracle”

By the time Kimberly came to it was almost September and she was confused. How did she get to a hospital in Charleston and who were the doctors and nurses in her room now?

“They say I just have to see you. They say you were sick. You are a miracle,” says Kimberly.

Her body was exhausted. But on October 22nd, Kimberly Leilani gave birth to Grice, a healthy girl weighing 7 pounds. 2 ounces.

Kimberly and Tory Grice’s daughter, Leilani, was born healthy after her mother was hospitalized for COVID.

Victoria Hansen / South Carolina Public Radio


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Kimberly and Tory Grice’s daughter, Leilani, was born healthy after her mother was hospitalized for COVID.

Victoria Hansen / South Carolina Public Radio

“The risk of risking your life, the life of your unborn child, is not worth it,” says Dr. Rebecca Wineland. She is the director of labor and delivery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Wineland says expectant mothers infected with the rapidly spreading Delta variant are at higher risk of stillbirth, stunted babies, and preeclampsia, one of the leading causes of maternal and child death worldwide.

She also sees firsthand what the CDC warns: Expectant mothers who develop COVID are twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care and are 70% more likely to lose their lives.

“It will absolutely save your life and reduce your risk of hospitalization if you get COVID,” says Wineland.

However, the news came too late for Scott Baisley and his two-month-old son Sullivan, who live near Charleston.

Scott cradles the crying baby and tries to comfort him. An empty bottle sits next to a framed ultrasound image and a wedding photo on a table next to it.

Scott’s wife Clair was 33 when she collapsed on the floor of her house within days of being diagnosed with COVID in August. She was quickly hospitalized with double pneumonia.

A week later, the doctors decided they had to deliver Sullivan by caesarean section. Clair was put on a ventilator and given a 10% chance of survival. Less than a month after her diagnosis, doctors were desperate to save her.

“But that was it. I saw her numbers go down. I saw her blood oxygen keep going down. I watched her heart rate increase,” says Scott.

Suddenly Clair was gone. COVID had taken her life. She could never hold Sullivan.

“Having a son without a mother is one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to go through.”

It’s a pain Scott doesn’t want to endure.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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