Haley Mulkey Richardson, 32, passed away on Friday. She was a registered nurse at the labour and delivery unit at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. She lived in Theodore, Alabama, just south of Mobile.
Family friend Jason Whatley told AL.com that Ms Richardson had been healthy before being infected with Covid-19 around three weeks before her passing.
“After about three or four days in the hospital, the [obstetrician] told her that she was going to lose the baby,” Mr Whatley said. “And she continued to get worse and worse.”
“At some point, they basically told her that we’ve got to start treating you as if you didn’t have a child. We’ve got to do what we can for you because the baby is going to pass anyway,” he added.
On 9 August, Ms Richardson wrote on Facebook: “Here in the dark, in the wee hours of the morning, it is so easy to pretend that all of this was just a nightmare or that I’m just here in this hospital bed due to my own issues with Covid. Not for anything being wrong with my sweet baby girl whom I thought I was protecting in my own womb.”
Four days before she died, she was put on a ventilator. Her unborn child died on 18 August and Ms Richardson passed away two days later on 20 August.
“She was a nurse,” Mr Whatley said. “She knew exactly when to go to the hospital, when her heart rate went up.
“They wished she’d been vaccinated, but outside of that, when she got sick, they did all the right things. And she still died.”
Ms Richardson’s mother Julie Mulkey told AL.com that she often spoke to her daughter about the vaccine and that the nurse decided not to get vaccinated because she was going to have another child and that she was concerned about anaphylactic – allergic – reactions.
“Haley had had anaphylaxis reactions in the past,” Ms Mulkey told the local outlet. “So for that reason, she felt that it was not safe for her.
“And then, of course, with all the negative reporting that has gone on, what was she to believe about what the vaccine would do to reproduction?
“Stuff about that it would destroy a female’s eggs and that kind of thing, and she wanted to have her second baby. That made her afraid to get it.”
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance, reinforcing its recommendation that those who are pregnant should get vaccinated as further data bolstered the evidence that it’s safe and effective during the entire pregnancy.
“CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from Covid-19,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on 11 August. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from Covid-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people.”
“Claims linking Covid-19 vaccines to infertility are unfounded and have no scientific evidence supporting them,” Dr Karen Leigh Samples, the chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children told AL.com.
She added that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology “recommends vaccination for all eligible people who may consider future pregnancy”.
Ms Mulkey said Ms Richardson’s employer required everyone who worked at the hospital to be vaccinated by November but that she wanted to wait until after she had given birth.
“We talked about it several times,” Ms Mulkey told AL.com. “She said at one point that she had about made up her mind to do it. And she just ... she just couldn’t quite get it done.”
South Alabama has been hit hard by the Delta variant, with several hospitals now being overcapacity.
“I had held off on getting my own shot,” Ms Mulkey said. “Now I have done that, the second one’s coming up later this week. My older daughter is the same way.
“And we have a couple across the street from us who are expecting, and one afternoon I just barrelled over there, and I said ‘look, if you haven’t done it, go get it done.’
“It’s absolutely had a big bearing on our opinion. Watching what my precious daughter went through was indescribably hard,” she said.
The seven-day average for daily new cases was 3,467 on 24 August compared to a seven day average of 121 new cases on 5 July, according to state data. In Alabama, 37 per cent are fully vaccinated – 52.1 per cent are fully vaccinated across the entire US.
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