Pregnant SoCal woman battling COVID faced life-or-death dilemma as she approached due date

BALDWIN PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- Mothers often have to make tough choices. But COVID-19 forced a Baldwin Park expectant mom into a very tough situation.

This Mother's Day will be one 35-year-old Natahlie Herrera won't soon forget.

At 37 weeks pregnant, Herrera was admitted into Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and she faced a dilemma.

"I had to put my life in the hands of the doctors and God, and just hope that I was gonna make it," Herrera said.

Herrera was succumbing to COVID-19. Doctors said she had to get on a ventilator, but she wanted to hang on for her unborn son.

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"I was so scared that I was going to leave the babies without a mother," she said. "Not only my newborn, but I had a 4-year-old at home."

It was late October. Her dad had just died from a sudden heart attack. Herrera learned he had COVID-19.

"In the moments of grief, you know, we all hugged my mom," Herrera said. "My mom was COVID-positive, too."

Pregnant women who get COVID-19 face a high mortality rate. A recent study found those who contract the virus are 20 times more likely to die than pregnant women who don't get infected.

"Pretty rapidly, she started to get sicker and sicker and sicker," said Dr. Terese Hammond, the medical director of the ICU at Providence Saint John's Health Center.

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Doctors moved quickly to deliver her son and then transferred Herrera to Santa Monica, where she could be put on a machine to keep her heart and lungs going.

"We put her on our ECMO bypass machine. And, for about three weeks she was just nearly as sick as you can get," Hammond said.

The staff monitored her closely.

After nearly a month, Herrera emerged weak and unable to speak.

She watched her father's funeral via FaceTime.

"Knowing we had just lost my dad, I didn't think my mom could take losing her daughter, too," Herrera said.

Herrera still suffers from COVID-related pain and neuropathy. She misses her dad. But this Mother's Day, the pandemic has made her realize what she is truly thankful for.

"I'm feeling blessed because I am here. My mom is still here. My mother-in-law is still here. My siblings. I'm just grateful for those that are still here," she said.

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