After a New Mom Dies of COVID, Her ICU Nurse Gathers Supplies for Baby's Nursery
Ashlee Schwartz was one of the Mercy Hospital nurses who treated Emily Robison before she died on Sept. 20, leaving behind her husband Eric and their newborn daughter Carmen, according to Good Morning America.
At one point during Emily's hospital stay, Schwartz learned that she had recently given birth and decided to get the family a gift through their baby registry, GMA reported.
But when she discovered no registry existed, and that Eric, 23, had barely any supplies for Carmen due to her early arrival, Schwartz knew she had to step up.
"I told Eric, 'I will try my best to get you everything that you need,' and it just took off from there," Schwartz, the mother of two young children, told the outlet. "I felt so called to help."
Thanks to Schwartz's actions, every item on Carmen's baby registry has now been fulfilled through donations from hospital staffers, community members and complete strangers.
The ICU nurse also created a GoFundMe page to "support baby Carmen and ease Eric's financial burden of being a single father," which has raised an additional $2,500.
"I have told [Eric], 'I am here for life. I will always make sure that you and Carmen always have what you need,' " Schwartz told GMA. "We as a community will always make sure they have what they need."
Emily's battle with COVID began in mid-August when she was nearly seven months pregnant, her husband told GMA.
The expectant mother was hospitalized for the virus and put on a ventilator before doctors had to perform an emergency C-section two months before her due date because of her rapidly deteriorating condition, according to the outlet.
Carmen officially made her entrance into the world on Aug. 25, weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces, according to the GoFundMe. But Emily, who was unvaccinated, died on Sept. 20 before she was able to meet her daughter.
"She was on life support until she passed away and didn't know she gave birth," Eric recalled to GMA.
Now he's reminded of how much his wife wanted to become a mother.
"Every time I came home she'd be talking to Carmen [during pregnancy]," he told the outlet. "It was like they were best friends already."
Schwartz told GMA she was assigned to care for Emily in the ICU about a week before she died. It was on that day that she realized the severity of the family's situation and became inspired to help.
"I knew she was maxed out on ventilator settings and was beyond sick," Schwartz recalled to the outlet. "One day, I saw Eric down the hall, sitting in a chair and staring at a glass door [to his wife's room] and it just broke my heart."
Named the "Pay It Forward" baby registry, Schwartz soon called on others to help Eric obtain essentials for Carmen's nursery, including a crib, clothes, bottles and diapers.
Donors fulfilled all of those needs before giving more to Carmen, including toys, games, stuffed animals, a car seat and a stroller — all of which will be waiting for the infant at home when she finally gets discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit this week, GMA reported.
Though difficult, Eric told the outlet this experience has opened his eyes to all the hard work that nurses put in each day for their patients.
"I have never known the kindness and the strength of nurses, from prayers to all the treatments they give to help patients," Eric said. "I've literally watched nurses work until they're collapsed in chairs because they're trying to help so many people out."
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The new dad offered a message for those stepping up to make a difference: "All of it has been so overwhelming and it's been truly amazing knowing that so many people care," he told GMA. "I want everyone to know who has ever donated, whoever will donate, who has ever prayed for my family, thank you so much. I cannot even express the gratitude I have. I appreciate it more than they will ever understand."
"I can't wait until Carmen gets older and I can tell her all the support she had," he added.
Those interested in donating to Carmen and Eric's GoFundMe can do so here.