A 29-year-old Kentucky woman who was fearful of getting vaccinated died of COVID-19 after missing her wedding while hospitalized with the virus.
Samantha Wendell had spent nearly the last two years planning her wedding to fiancé Austin Eskew, obsessing over every aspect of the big day, NBC News reported. The surgical technician from Grand Rivers had put off getting vaccinated, worried that her plans to have three or four kids with Eskew wouldn’t be possible after she heard false information from her co-workers that the shots led to infertility.
She “just kind of panicked,” Eskew, 29, said.
The Centers for Disease Control, OB-GYN groups and health experts have emphasized that the COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility and are entirely safe for hopeful or expecting moms. “It is just not true that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is associated with infertility in either males or females,” Dr. Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, previously told PEOPLE.
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Wendell ended up changing her mind on getting vaccinated as the delta variant spread through the U.S., and decided that she and Eskew should get inoculated before their honeymoon in Mexico. She made appointments for them for the end of July, but after her bachelorette party a week prior, she started feeling sick and tested positive for COVID-19.
“She could not stop coughing,” Eskew, who got it too, said.
Neither of the couple had preexisting health conditions, and Eskew’s symptoms were mild. But Wendell continued to deteriorate and was hospitalized in August. She spent six weeks in the hospital, and five days before their planned wedding date of Aug. 21, Wendell was put on a ventilator. Just before, she asked doctors if she could get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It wasn’t going to do any good at that point, obviously,” her mother, Jeaneen Wendell, said. “It just weighs heavy on my heart that this could have easily been avoided.”
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On Sept. 10, her family decided to take Wendell off life support, and she died that day. The family is now planning a funeral for her at the church where she had planned to get married.
“Misinformation killed her,” Wendell’s cousin, Maria Vibandor Hayes, said, adding that she hopes the tragedy will encourage others to get vaccinated. “If we can save more lives and families’ lives, then this is the gift she left for us to deliver.”
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Eskew, who had been with Wendell since meeting during their freshman year orientation in college, said that he’s been struggling without her.
“She had so much influence in everything that I do,” he said. “We didn’t really ever do anything without the other in mind.”
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