Unvaccinated Pregnant Nurse and Her Unborn Baby Die of COVID: 'It's Hard to Accept'
Her family is now in the process of getting vaccinated and urging others to do the same.
An Alabama family is mourning the loss of Haley Mulkey Richardson and her unborn child after they both died from COVID-19.
Richardson, 32, was a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital just over the border in Pensacola, Florida. She and her husband, Jordan Richardson, lived in Theodore along with their 2-year-old daughter Katie, and were excitedly awaiting the arrival of their second child, a girl.
Haley had put off getting vaccinated against COVID-19 out of concerns about her pregnancy, Jordan said.
"We were just worried that there may be complications from that standpoint with having a baby and once she was pregnant, so she was not vaccinated. I think she would have advocated for it though, knowing this would be the outcome," Jordan told WKRG News 5.
(The Centers for Disease Control and OB-GYN groups strongly advise people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as studies have confirmed that the vaccines are safe and effective for those groups.)
At the end of July, Haley, who had no preexisting conditions other than her pregnancy, contracted the virus and her condition quickly worsened. Researchers have found that COVID-19 significantly increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as premature and stillborn births and miscarriages.
Haley was admitted to the hospital in early August at nearly seven months pregnant, and "after about three or four days in the hospital, the [obstetrician] told her that she was going to lose the baby," 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," he continued. "We've got to do what we can for you because the baby is going to pass anyway."
On Aug. 18, the baby, whom they named Ryleigh Beth, died. Haley continued to worsen, and was put on a ventilator four days before her death on Aug. 20.
"It's really hard," her mother, Julie Mulkey, told AL.com. "It's hard to accept, it's hard to face. We're glad she's not suffering anymore."
Whatley said the family and doctors did everything they could to help Haley.
"They wished she'd been vaccinated, but outside of that, when she got sick, they did all the right things. And she still died," Whatley said. He and his wife have set up a GoFundMe page to help support the Richardsons.
At a nearby hospital, UAB in Birmingham, doctors said they're seeing a record number of pregnant women hospitalized for COVID-19, all unvaccinated. In August, the hospital admitted 39 unvaccinated pregnant women, 10 of whom are in the ICU and seven are on ventilators. Two women have died, and many are delivering their babies prematurely.
"Truly, we've never had this number of pregnant women in my ICU," said Dr. Steve Stigler, director of UAB Hospital's Medical Intensive Care Unit in a statement Friday, AL.com reported.
Mulkey said that Haley had gone back and forth on whether she should get vaccinated.
"We talked about it several times," Mulkey said. "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. If she had had the information that has come out since this happened to her, yes, she would have gotten it."
Mulkey and her other daughter have now gotten their first vaccine dose, in light of Haley's death, and are urging others to do the same.
"I had held off on getting my own shot," 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 barreled 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," she added. "Watching what my precious daughter went through was indescribably hard."
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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This story originally appeared on people.com