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COVID-19: The toll on the unborn

A Madison psychologist shares the heartbreak and immense grief of losing a baby to COVID-19
Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It was another dream come true for a Madison family: Pregnant with their second child after fertility treatments; and then, a heart wrenching loss after a COVID-19 diagnosis.

In an exclusive 3 On Your Side interview, Dr. Alyssa Killebrew shared her loss, pain, and hope for other mothers during this pandemic.

Dr. Killebrew says COVID-19 robbed her family of their miracle.
Dr. Killebrew says COVID-19 robbed her family of their miracle.(Dr. Alyssa Killebrew)

It was a long and painful journey for Dr. Alyssa Killebrew and her husband to have children.

“Keith and I are older, we’re in our 40s and so when we started trying we had issues,” Dr. Killebrew said. “We had two miscarriages and then we went in and talked to a fertility doctor in Colorado who said, ‘You’re a really good candidate for IVF.’ So we went through all the shots and all the tests and all the hormones and we were able to produce our little girl Vivian.”

They decided to try for a second child.

“During the pandemic in June, we went back to try again. And it was truly the most unbelievable pregnancy. I had no problem getting pregnant with IVF. Sarah Elizabeth was--she was perfect. I went to the doctor almost every week because I’m a high risk because of my age and everything was fine,” Dr. Killebrew said.

The couple had returned from a grief retreat when we talked with her.

Dr. Killebrew said, “I couldn’t talk about my baby. I couldn’t look at this beautiful little dress with, it’s still got her little...her nose was running. I couldn’t look at it without boohooing. And I can talk about it and I can feel her precious little spirit inside me without falling apart because of this place.”

Dr. Killebrew, who is a local psychologist, says she knew something was wrong. She even had a COVID-19 test.

Dr. Killebrew pictured with her daughter Vivian.  She is hoping for another pregnancy.
Dr. Killebrew pictured with her daughter Vivian. She is hoping for another pregnancy.(Dr. Alyssa Killebrew)

“I had symptoms of just a sour stomach, I had like a sore throat and I thought initially maybe I had strep, so I went in for a strep test and it was negative. I went and had the Rapid COVID test and that was negative so I decided just to be safe, I started working from home that week and this was the week of Thanksgiving. And I knew something was not right, but the test showed I didn’t have COVID. So I went with my husband on Thanksgiving Day to the Peabody and we had a wonderful lunch and it was a beautiful day but I noticed there was nothing moving in my stomach. I was 26 weeks pregnant at that time,” Dr. Killebrew said.

She went to the ER.

”It was truly the most shocking experience of my life. I couldn’t really accept it at that time, that there was no heartbeat. I thought maybe when we get to Jackson and we do another ultrasound there will be a heartbeat. Maybe something was wrong with their system there,” said Dr. Killebrew.

COVID-19 had robbed them of their miracle.

“And she went ahead and did a COVID test and I was positive. I had to give birth to her knowing that she wasn’t alive which was really difficult, really painful for me and my husband. I tried to have her naturally and I couldn’t because I never dilated past two centimeters. So we had her via C-Section and no mother ever wants to have to hold her little lifeless baby’s body. Her legs were long, her fingers were perfect, her little feet had all five toes, and she was just in every way the most beautiful little baby.”

In Part 2 of our special report, Dr. Killebrew shares how COVID affects the unborn and how it caused Sarah Elizabeth’s death. We will also hear from a doctor at UMMC who tells us about the toll on healthcare workers fighting to help pregnant mothers and their babies battling COVID-19.

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