KEY POINTS

  • The 31-year-old South Carolina woman was not vaccinated when she was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 14
  • The woman's loved ones urged expectant mothers to not wait to get the vaccine
  • The CDC recommended on Aug. 11 that pregnant people be vaccinated against the coronavirus

A 31-year-old woman in Kershaw County, South Carolina, died from complications of COVID-19 just days after giving birth to her fourth child in August.

Sara Caitlin Vilchez, of Elgin, was waiting until after her delivery to get vaccinated because she was worried about how the vaccine may coincide with her underlying health conditions and her pregnancy, WIS News 10 reported.

Vilchez was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 14 — three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that pregnant people be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Prior to this, the vaccine was encouraged for pregnant people but not fully recommended.

"She had mild symptoms. A sore throat, some coughing," Sara's older sister, Amanda Haynes, recalled, adding that Vilchez did not have breathing problems at that point.

Vilchez welcomed her daughter Marianna on Aug. 15. Three days later, her symptoms reportedly worsened, but she insisted that she leave the hospital with her newborn.

"She wanted to go home. She wanted to take her little girl home," her sister said.

Physicians gave Vilchez a monoclonal antibody treatment before she was released. However, she was rushed back to the hospital three hours later. She was then put on a ventilator after two more hours.

"It went from being so positive that, 'She's gonna beat this,' to, 'Now she's gone,'" Haynes said.

Things started to look good for Vilchez for a period of time while she was on the ventilator, her sister said.

"She was beating the odds. [W]e were talking about moving her to the next step. She was well enough, she was awake, she was alert, she made the nurses laugh. She was asking for ice and juice," Haynes recalled.

Vilchez's feeding tube, however, later became dislodged and caused an infection that required surgery.

"When they got to the operating room, before they could start, her heart stopped," Haynes said.

Medical personnel reportedly performed chest compressions for 40 minutes that restarted Vilchez's heart. The surgery was successfully completed, but her heart later stopped again for 30 minutes.

The medical team was able to resuscitate Vilchez, but they warned Haynes that her sister's body would not be able to handle the heart-stopping again.

"That's when they allowed the family to come up," Haynes said. "Her presence was just gone."

The Elgin community later contributed more than $10,000 to a fundraiser called "Let's give Sara Caitlin the funeral she deserves."

Vilchez's loved ones, as well as health experts, have urged pregnant people to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

"During the last few weeks of pregnancy, it's very hard to breathe. Your body's immunity also changes during pregnancy, so combining these two things, makes it very difficult to deal with a situation like [COVID-19]," Dr. Sunil Kumar, ICU director of Broward Health Medical Center, was quoted as saying.

In an Aug. 11 media statement, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, "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. 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.”

The U.S. has recorded 40.5 million COVID-19 cases and 652,675 deaths as of Wednesday, data provided by Johns Hopkins University showed.

baby-feet-4746255_1920 Representation. A New York hospital will pause operations at its maternity unit due to the influx of employee resignations over the state's vaccine mandate. Photo: Pixabay