LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — An east Alabama grandmother, mother, and retired teacher is urging families to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Her plea comes after watching her pregnant daughter struggle to survive.
Amanda Harrison, 36, of Phenix City, was expecting her fourth child when COVID-19 sickened nine members of her family, including her. It was Aug. 3 before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory strongly urging pregnant women to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“She wasn’t sure if she should get the vaccine or not; she was in the midst of her pregnancy. She was healthy; other than being pregnant, she had no underlying medical conditions,” said Laurie Grant, Harrison’s mother.
Harrison got sick. Very sick. For two weeks, she struggled to fight the virus at home. Then, early on Aug. 14, she called her mom and dad, saying she needed to go to the emergency room. She was admitted and placed in the intensive care unit.
“I went with her. She wanted her mom, and it just got worse from there. (A doctor) came in and said she was the sickest pregnant person they had seen so far. He was very open with us and said they would do everything they could to save her and the baby. They wanted to fly her to Birmingham, (University of Alabama at Birmingham) Hospital, but there were no beds available,” said Grant.
Grant says a few hours later when a bed became available at UAB, Amanda was struggling to breathe on top of persistent vomiting and couldn’t wear the helicopter’s oxygen mask.
“What was so impressive with (East Alabama Medical Center) is they tried everything they could do get her on that life flight. I wanted them as they all met in the hallway, it must have been 20 to 25 of them, trying to figure out what to do next. They went ahead and took her back and intubated her, but they did not take the baby; they had her intubated and got her on that helicopter and flew her to UAB while she was pregnant. The drive there was the scariest drive of my life,” said Grant.
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UAB performed an emergency cesarean section at 32 weeks. Harrison’s daughter, Lake, is doing fine.
“Baby is doing great. She was born at 3 pounds and is about 12 more ounces now and 17 inches long. The baby is doing really good. When she (Harrison) was able to go ahead and get the C-section, they were able to start treating the COVID very aggressively and do things they could not do when she was pregnant,” said Grant.
As of Monday, Harrison is no longer intubated, and she is almost off ECMO, considered the last resort of life-support. The family hopes sometime this week, Harrison could be moved to another room, out of the ICU.
Harrison is still very sick with zero energy. She has a feeding tube and is slowly regaining some of the weight she lost. She has yet to meet her infant daughter and has been away from her other three children for nearly two weeks. Grant says it’s challenging, but they remain thankful to the dozens of hospital workers who kept her daughter and granddaughter alive.
Grant has been fully vaccinated since Spring and says the rest of her family plans on getting the shots as soon as possible.
“If people could see their children laying in the bed, fighting for their life, they may be more cognizant to get the vaccination or just stay home,” said Grant.
Grant says her family wanted to share her daughter’s story to teach others about the severity of COVID-19. The family is grateful for the thoughts and prayers of so many, and urges everyone to take this virus seriously.
“Some people think because they are young and healthy, they are going to be just fine, maybe need a little oxygen, and that’s it. But it’s not like that for a lot of people, and there is no rhyme or reason to who gets really sick and who doesn’t,” said Grant.
An East Alabama Medical Center spokesperson says the entire hospital is praying mother and baby continue to improve. The hospital, along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology, strongly encourages all pregnant women, regardless of which trimester they are in, to become vaccinated as soon as possible.