COLUMBUS, Ga. — Pregnancy is such an exciting and uncertain time for families. Expecting mothers try to eat the right foods and be as healthy as possible for their baby.
But Columbus-area couple Kyndal and Thomas Nipper fear a decision they made to try to keep their unborn child safe had devastating consequences.
The couple said they knew expanding their family during a pandemic was a risk, but they were over the moon when they learned Kyndal was pregnant with a boy. Little Jack was due August 2021.
“The vaccine came available for emergency use whenever we were pregnant and at the time, I just really didn’t know that much about it,” Kyndal said.
The Nippers were concerned with how new the shot was. Like many expecting families, it seemed like a risk they weren’t ready to take.
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Thomas said they took other steps to stay safe during the pandemic. “We were cautious. We kept our distance. We masked up,” he said.
In July, weeks before baby Jack was due, Kyndal lost her sense of smell. She tested positive for COVID-19 but had mild symptoms, a low fever, and in a couple of days she felt she was on the mend. But then baby Jack quit moving.
“I looked at [my husband] and said something’s not right,” Kyndal said. She tried drinking a soda to make the baby move, then went to the hospital. There, doctors told her baby Jack had no heartbeat and was still-born.
Kyndal’s doctor worked with pathologists and discovered COVID-19 severely damaged her placenta, the organ providing oxygen and nutrients to Jack. Kyndal said she learned, too late, how dangerous the virus is for unborn children and pregnant mothers. She suffered complications from COVID-19 for weeks.
“I’m thankful I’m here today to be able to tell my story, to be able to tell Jack’s story,” Kyndal said.
According to the CDC, pregnant women have a 70 percent higher chance of dying from COVID-19. And more than 22,000 expectant mothers have been hospitalized with the virus and 97 percent of them are unvaccinated. Doctors said the vaccine is a safe and effective tool to keep pregnant mothers from getting the virus.
“Gosh, we tell women that can’t have a deli sandwich and they can’t eat bleu cheese and then we’re telling them, we got this vaccine we want you to get,” said Dr. David “Holt” Harrison. “I understand their hesitation, they ask a lot of great questions.”
Dr. Harrison has been an obstetrician for 31 years and works at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group. He said it’s important for doctors to validate and recognize questions pregnant patients they have, including the safety of a vaccine.
“Most of the time, it’s honestly a lack of information it’s confusion and it’s again it’s general genuine concern about pregnancy in general,” Dr. Harrison said.
Gainesville OBGYN Dr. Rebecca Ando can relate her pregnant patients’ concerns because she was in their shoes earlier this year.
“I had some hesitancy of my own, to be honest, since the vaccine was new,” Dr. Ando said. But because she works in healthcare, and has underlying conditions said yes to the shot during her second trimester. Her healthy baby girl is now four months old.
Dr. Ando said research from the CDC and the American College of OBGYN proves she made the right call. “I thought it was a really strong decision not only to protect myself but also to protect my daughter.” Dr. Ando said.
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Kyndal Nipper doesn’t like to regret, but if she could turn back time, she would have gotten the shot too. She hopes other women hear her story and have a conversation with their doctor.
“Jack is always going to have a special place in our hearts and our homes and through our story we really hope that we can make a difference to preventing this from happening to at least one family,” Kyndal said.
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