‘My baby loved her babies’: Elgin mother of four dies of COVID-19

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 9:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - An Elgin mother of four daughters who gave birth to her fourth child on Aug. 15 has died from complications of COVID-19. Sara Caitlin Vilchez’s family is shocked by her sudden decline and is urging expectant mothers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sara was waiting until after delivering her baby to get the vaccine due to her worries about how the vaccine may coincide with her underlying health conditions and with her pregnancy.

For all but three days of Sara’s pregnancy, the COVID-19 vaccine was encouraged for pregnant women by the CDC, but not fully recommended. Full recommendation for all three available vaccines came on August 11.

Sara was diagnosed with coronavirus on August 14.

“She had mild symptoms,” said Sara’s older sister, Amanda Haynes. “A sore throat, some coughing. Not really much problems breathing.”

Sara delivered her healthy and happy daughter, Marianna, on August 15. Three days later, Sara’s symptoms started to worsen, but she insisted that she leave the hospital with her baby.

“She wanted to go home,” said Haynes. “She wanted to take her little girl home.”

Before being released, physicians gave her a monoclonal antibody treatment. Three hours later, she was rushed back to the hospital. After two more hours, Sara was put on a ventilator.

“It went from being so positive that, ‘She’s gonna beat this,’ to ‘Now she’s gone,’” said Haynes.

Doctors say the current surge of COVID-19 affects young people and expectant mothers much more than the previous surge in the winter.

“These are tragic stories, and we shouldn’t have to tell them,” said Dr. Chris Lombardozzi, Chief Medical Officer of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

Things started to look up for a period of time while Sara was on the ventilator, friends, and family say.

“She was beating the odds,” said Haynes. “Thursday we 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.”

Family and friends weren’t allowed to visit, but they video called Sara every night.

“She nodded her head,” said Sara’s best friend Patti Dalton. “On Thursday she told me to tell her girls how much she loved them from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet.”

After Sara made progress, Haynes received a call that her sister’s feeding tube had been dislodged and was causing an infection that required emergency surgery.

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

The medical team performed chest compressions for 40 minutes that restarted Sara’s heart. The surgery was successfully completed, but on the way back from the ICU, her heart stopped again. This time, for 30 minutes. The team once again resuscitated Sara but warned Haynes that her body would likely not be able to handle the heart-stopping again.

“That’s when they allowed the family to come up,” said Haynes. “Her presence was just gone.”

Family and friends are still shocked at the sudden decline of such a lively and healthy young mother. Sara was 31 years old.

“Friday morning, it just didn’t make sense,” said Dalton. “It really didn’t. I was talking to her the day before.”

Sara’s baby is 21 days old. Her friends and family say Sara was a wonderful mother, a hard worker, and a great supporter. She had multiple jobs in Elgin to care for her daughters and was very excited to hold her newborn—her rainbow baby.

“My baby loved her babies,” said Sara’s mom Erika Maynard.

The Elgin community has rallied around Sara’s family by contributing more than $10,000 to a GoFundMe called ‘Let’s give Sara Caitlin the funeral she deserves’ in just one day.

With full CDC recommendation for expectant mothers to get the vaccine, Sara’s loved ones and health experts urge pregnant women to not wait for their shot.

“During the last few weeks of pregnancy, it’s very hard to breathe,” said Dr. Sunil Kumar, ICU Director of Broward Health Medical Center. “Your body’s immunity also changes during pregnancy, so combining these two things, makes it very difficult to deal with a situation like COVID.”

Data shows each of the three COVID-19 vaccines reduces the risk of coronavirus infection and helps build antibodies that may protect developing babies.

For more information on vaccines and where to get your COVID-19 shot, visit COVID-19 Vaccine | SCDHEC.

For questions regarding the vaccine for expectant mothers, visit COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding.

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