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Centralia mother battles COVID-19 during pregnancy


At 31 weeks pregnant, 24-year-old Madeline Sweezer of Centralia tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was thinking about how I couldn't breathe and now I knew that because I couldn't breathe, (the baby) wasn't getting enough," Sweezer said of her battle with the coronavirus. "And that was, that was really my only thoughts. I hadn't even really processed that I had COVID and that this was all because of COVID.”

She and her husband, Dakota, found out back in January they were expecting their first child. Then they were faced with questions: Should Madeline get vaccinated and what about the baby?

“As we got closer, it was definitely very scary and trying to figure out when I should get vaccinated if I should get vaccinated and if it was safe for the baby," Sweezer said. "The whole time so it was very scary and just kind of a lot of unknowns.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says pregnant people and those who were recently pregnant are at increased risk from COVID-19, though the overall risk of serious illness is low for most people. Pregnant people are also at increased risk of pre-term birth or other complications, the agency says. The day after Madeline gave birth, the CDC urged pregnant people to get vaccinated, citing a low vaccination rate for that group.

Nearly 24% of pregnant Americans had been vaccinated by Aug. 14.

Madeline says she initially wanted to get the vaccine but decided not to because of a lack of research and guidance. Then on July 22, Dakota tested positive for COVID-19. Madeline quickly moved out of the house they shared hoping to avoid the virus, but five days later, she tested positive, too.

Madeline said at first her sickness felt like a cold and she thought she'd be able to recover at home. But things got worse, and she became worried about not only her own health, but her baby’s health too.

A doctor told her to go to the emergency room.

Madeline’s father-in-law drove her to the ER at Boone Health in Columbia on Aug. 4, where she was admitted. Her condition went downhill quickly. The next morning she was in intensive care.

Doctors then made a decision to make a bold move for Madeline and the baby -- an emergency Caesarean section. Madeline was on a ventilator for four days afterward.

William Dean was born eight weeks early and healthy that day, but Madeline couldn't meet her new baby for nearly two weeks.

“It was so frustrating not being able to meet my baby," Madeline said. "And you know they always say that they want to put the baby on the mom right away after birth, and skin to skin, and it's all about bonding, and I couldn't do any of that.”

Madeline was in the ICU for the next week. She felt regret for not getting vaccinated against coronavirus earlier.

“Yeah, I felt very guilty, and I felt guilty that the nurses had to put on full (protective gear) every time they come into my room," she said. "They have to be careful that they don't get sick and like what if I infected one of them.”

After only about a week out of the hospital, she has a new perspective on the vaccine, the recovery and a message for moms -- take the vaccine.

Madeline got vaccinated on Friday and she says baby William Dean is doing great.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus
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Zach Boetto

Zach Boetto anchors the weekend morning and weekday 9 a.m. & noon newscasts for ABC 17. You can find up-to-the-minute information on Zach’s social media, @ABC17Zach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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