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How Covid-19 turned life upside down in under-vaccinated Arkansas


“It’s really daunting to see younger, sicker patients,” said Dr. Mette. “We didn’t see that level of disease earlier in the epidemic.”

Young, pregnant coronavirus patients used to be rare in the hospital. But in the end four or five of them ended up in the intensive care unit. Three were treated with a machine called ECMO – short for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – a step that is seen as a last resort after ventilator failure. The machine directs blood from the body into a device that adds oxygen and then pumps it back into the patient.

Ashton Reed, 25, a district attorney’s coordinator, was 30 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital on May 26, seriously ill. To save her life, doctors delivered her baby by emergency caesarean section and then hooked her up to the ECMO machine.

In a public notice later urging vaccination, her husband said she had moved from sinus problems to life support within 10 days.

“I almost died,” she said. “My opinion about the vaccine has definitely changed.”

Last month, the hospital had to reopen a coronavirus ward that it closed in late spring. A second reopened on Monday.

Many of the nurses there wore colorful stickers that said they had been vaccinated. Ashley Ayers, 26, a traveling nurse from Dallas, didn’t. Noting that vaccine development usually took years, she said she was concerned that vaccination could affect her fertility – although there is no evidence to support it.

“I just think it was rushed,” she said.

David Deutscher, 49, one of her patients for almost a week, is no longer a holdout. A heating and air conditioning specialist and an Air Force veteran, he said he fought Covid at home for 10 days before going to the hospital with a 105-degree fever.

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