Tennessee mom on ventilator after contracting COVID-19 while pregnant

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s a COVID-19 tale one Tennessee family never thought they would be telling, but a story that’s become all too common.

A Benton County mother of two is fighting for her life on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19, all while pregnant.

“I never thought we would go through this with Ashley. She’s just so strong, so outgoing, and everybody has said they never thought about it hitting Ashley like this,” said Darlene Tunnell, Ashley’s mother.

Like many others, Ashley started coughing and complaining about her throat hurting. Mrs. Tunnell quickly urged her to go and visit a doctor, especially after she contracted COVID-19 herself.

On July 23, Ashley went to get a COVID test. It came back positive.

“She kept getting worse and worse and coughing. Coughing was pretty bad, ” remembered Mrs. Tunnell.

A week later, she was admitted into a Lebanon hospital ICU, but was later airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s ICU because of her pregnancy. While in the hospital, her condition worsened as the days went by. Ashley’s heart had stopped twice, but thankfully doctors were able to bring her back to life.

“Watching my baby lay there, she’s my only child, and to watch her lay like I’ve had to watch her lay,” said Mrs. Tunnell, holding back tears.

Every day, the Benton County family has traveled to Nashville to see Ashley through a glass window and visit with her. After so many calls and messages asking about Ashley’s progress, her father began documenting her journey on Facebook.

Sharing daily photos and videos, it seemed like Ashley was slowly getting better until her father wrote about the “hardest post” he has made. With deep sadness, he explained how Ashley lost her baby at five and a half months pregnant. Detailing how “the last thing Ashley texted me before she went on the ventilator was ‘Daddy I love you, please take care of everything,’ and I told her, ‘You know I will until you come home.'”

“It has been devastating for the whole family, she has so much love and support, and prayers,” said Mrs. Tunnel.

Ashley is described as being a young and bubbly mother. Just 30 years old, her family and work always came first. Mrs. Tunnell said COVID-19 was not a foreign virus for the family after several members contracted it. Now the family is asking for prayers.

“She has a strong will to get better; she’s got two beautiful girls, and John, David, and she wants to get home to them,” said Mrs. Tunnell.

The latest post from the family shows Ashley is slowly getting better, but still has a long journey ahead of her. The family plans on holding an outdoor memorial for the baby. Close friends of Ashley’s created a GoFundMe to help with her medical expenses; now they are hoping by sharing her story, others will get vaccinated.

Her father writing, “Ashley has always been about helping others and even in ICU she is helping others by increasing awareness of this dreadful virus.”

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