Baby born weeks early after unvaccinated mother contracts COVID-19

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Jasmine Ballard, 26, is still struggling to use her voice, two months after starting her battle with COVID-19 in the hospital.

“COVID will take you down fast, and faster than you know,” said Ballard. “I couldn’t eat on my own, I couldn’t use the bathroom on my own. I couldn’t do anything.”

Ballard was nearly 26 weeks pregnant on July 31 when she was admitted to Mercy Hospital and diagnosed with COVID-19.

“She was declining really fast, and they couldn’t keep her oxygen levels up,” said Tommy Greene, Ballard’s father. “They had to keep turning the ventilator up and then they told me finally, it was maxed out and her condition was still declining.”

By August 4, the Glasgow Village mother was induced in a coma.

“Organ failure was imminent, so they had to do an emergency c section to get baby Ricky out,” said Greene.

Baby Ricky came into the world on August 5. He was born prematurely because of his mother’s fight with COVID-19.

“I woke up not knowing [that] I didn’t have a baby in my belly,” said Ballard.

Ballard’s fight still was not over as doctors prepared to use an ECMO machine to pump oxygen into her blood and save her life. Greene said doctors told him this was the only hope left, though they had little confidence she would survive this treatment.

“I got a call and they said they accidentally nicked the wrong artery in her neck and she had to be rushed into the OR,” said Greene. “They repaired the artery, but then they said well now that ECMO, that last ditch effort to save her was off the table.”

Greene said what happened next felt like a miracle.

“So, they put her back on the ventilator and for whatever reason, she started responding,” he said. “Her lungs started to heal. They were able to turn that ventilator down daily, and then within a week she was off of it.”

Ballard and her baby are now both recovering from the traumatic experience, with baby Ricky expected to be back home with his family in November around his original due date.

“He still has a feeding tube and he’s still on all the oxygen and everything, but he’s doing good, he’s gaining weight,” she said.

Ballard’s three other children also caught COVID-19 around the same time she did, but they recovered quicker. She now wishes she had taken precautions early on and gotten vaccinated to prevent what happened to her and her newborn.

“I will be getting vaccinated after I get out of the hospital,” said Ballard.

That same sentiment is now being felt by her father and the rest of her family, who were once hesitant to get the vaccine themselves.

“I was dead set against like a lot of people, against the vaccine, did not want it,” said Greene. “No one could tell me any long-term effects of this vaccine, but I had to realize, seeing Jasmine go down as quickly as she did, that people are dying from COVID. They’re not dying from the vaccine.”

Greene is now set to get his second dose this weekend. He and his daughter call on others to do their part to protect their loved ones.

“I want people to get vaccinated, wear their masks, do whatever they have to do to stay out of this situation,” said Ballard.

The family has a GoFundMe hoping to raise money to help Ballard tackle medical expenses not covered by her insurance, including ongoing physical therapy at BJC.

Ballard is set to leave physical therapy and return home to her other children on Tuesday.

“I can walk on a walker. I can eat on my own. I can open things on my own. I can even use the bathroom,” she said.