Florida mom held her newborn for only minutes before dying of COVID-19 days later

Doctors encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The family of 30-year-old Kristen McMullen said she was a fighter and had a lust for life. That she was outgoing, accomplishing anything she put her mind to including a recent promotion to general manager of a hotel. But her ultimate dream would be short-lived.

“That was a dream of hers, to have a baby and a family. Keith is the love of her life,” said James Syverson who is Kristen’s uncle.

That dream for McMullen only lasted a little over a week after she was taken to a Melbourne hospital 8 months pregnant with COVID-19. Her symptoms were so bad, doctors had to perform a C-Section to deliver her daughter, Summer, weeks early.

“She held her for a brief moment. There’s two pictures of her holding Summer, then she had to go to the ICU because she had complications with breathing,” said McMullen’s aunt, Melissa Syverson.

That was the last time the new mom would hold her baby girl. As her condition worsened with Pneumonia, her husband Keith would only be able to share the joy of their new baby through video chat. McMullen was eventually put on a ventilator and died on Aug. 6.

The family did not share with News 6 whether or not McMullen received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We really thought with her being young and full of energy and completely healthy we thought she was going to pull through,” said Melissa Syverson.

“She was giving it all to the baby and giving it all to fight this illness, and unfortunately the illness won. Absolutely terrible,” said James Syverson.

Dr. Lori Boardman, Chief Quality Officer at Orlando Health’s Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, said there’s been an increase in COVID-19 patients at the hospital who are pregnant with severe cases.

“They definitely have pneumonia and are requiring oxygen,” Boardman said. “If the baby doesn’t look good because sometimes the heart rates will slow, we’re having to deliver babies before they’re supposed to be born.”

Kristen McMullen, 30, and her daughter, Summer. (WKMG 2021)

Boardman said the best thing pregnant women can do to protect themselves and their babies is to get the COVID vaccine and follow CDC recommendations like wearing a mask and social distancing.

“One of the biggest questions I get is ‘Does it increase risk of miscarriage?’ Data says no. We’re not seeing a negative impact at all from receiving the vaccination,” Boardman said. “We’ve seen the babies getting antibodies from their moms who get vaccinated which protects them.”

The McMullen family is now trying to get through their heartbreaking tragedy.

“It’s such a loss all the way around. Summer not having a mom, me not having a niece, Keith not having a wife,” said James.

The family is rallying around Keith and his daughter Summer through this difficult time. They said when Summer gets older, they will share memories of her mother with her. The family has also set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses as well as financial support for Keith, who is now a single father.

Mom-to-be Kristen McMullen, 30. (WKMG 2021)

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a multimedia journalist who joined the News 6 team in February 2020. Crystal comes to Central Florida from WKMG’s sister station, WJXT in Jacksonville, where she worked as a traffic anchor and MMJ.