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Mother, front line worker battles COVID-19, loses her baby, encourages everyone to get vaccinated

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 3:28 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - It will be a year ago on November 5 since Crystal Mitchell was discharged from Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans after spending months in and out of the hospital, battling COVID-19.

The local front-line health care worker has treated hundreds of coronavirus-positive patients. Months later, she ended up at her own emergency room at CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital.

When Crystal moved back to Alexandria, she and her husband, Rick Mitchell, couldn’t wait to tell their family their big news at a crawfish boil in May of 2020.

“We shared the news with Ava Grace, our daughter, and gave her the news that we were expecting,” said Mitchell.

It was Mitchell’s fourth pregnancy. However, in a devastating turn of events, Crystal’s baby was never able to leave the hospital and come home with her loving family.

“At that time, I was about 13, 14 weeks pregnant when we had the crawfish boil announcing our pregnancy,” she said.

Annalee Faith was born on August 10, 2020, in the COVID-19 ICU at Cabrini Hospital. Crystal was just 24 weeks pregnant when she went into pre-term labor and delivered Annalee. At the time, Crystal had COVID-19. She said her daughter was delivered and then her heart rate began to slow because of the stress COVID-19 placed on her tiny body. The code team was present due to Annalee’s age and, unfortunately, she coded.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to get the vaccination to protect me and my unborn baby,” said Mitchell.

Crystal, the Administrative Director of Emergency Services at Cabrini and a front-line worker herself, did everything in her power to keep herself and her family safe from COVID-19.

“I was a nurse in the ED and the ED Director, young, healthy, would have never expected what happened to have happened to us.”

Crystal Mitchell

Back in 2019, Crystal led the emergency response team that cared for the first wave of COVID-positive patients evacuated from Wuhan in Anchorage, Alaska.

“In the very height, in the very beginning of COVID, symptoms were extremely severe and by the time that these patients got to us, it was end-stage and we couldn’t do anything. Patients were dying left and right,” said Mitchell.

Fast forward to May of 2020. That’s when Crystal and her family of three moved back home to Louisiana and Crystal started working at Cabrini.

In mid-July, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and had a gallbladder attack. But it got even worse when she tested positive for COVID-19. For her, the virus was nearly deadly.

“I can see my numbers on the monitor and for a healthy person you want to stay 94% to 100%, and I remember seeing 78%, 80% and I’m thinking oh my gosh, I’m on oxygen, it’s not working,” said Mitchell.

Crystal was in the ICU, that’s when she lost baby Annalee. She spent about 17 days at Cabrini before being airlifted to Ochsner in New Orleans, where she stayed for an additional two to three weeks.

“At that moment, I was really scared and really terrified that something bad could really happen, that she could possibly no longer be here,” said Ava, Crystal’s daughter.

Even after she was released from the hospital, it was just a few days before she was re-admitted to Cabrini for what she said felt like an aneurysm. She was airlifted back to Ochsner. Her husband stayed by her side as much as possible.

“It was very difficult, it was just very, very difficult trying to be there for my daughter when I needed to be by the bedside of my wife,” said Rick.

It wasn’t until November 5, 2020, that Crystal was discharged.

“In total, I was able to come home for a few weeks and in total, I’ve had around 21 surgeries.”

Crystal Mitchell

And, she’s still recovering to this day.

“We just lost our baby and to lose her too...I couldn’t imagine how difficult that would’ve been on our family,” said Rick.

As soon as she got the green light from her care team, Crystal and her whole family got the COVID-19 vaccine together.

“As soon as I was released by my providers and my health care team, that was the first thing that we did, and me and my whole family (got it),” said Mitchell.

Her hope is that others will follow suit so that no one has to go through the pain that she and her family had to go through.

“It’s our opportunity and our due diligence to be able to do this, to be able to protect the next person, to be able to protect your loved ones,” said Crystal.

Today, Crystal is doing well, and she’s just thankful to tell her story.

“This has been an eye awakening experience. God has chosen me to share this story to be able to highlight that it can happen to anyone. This is my rebirth.”

Crystal Mitchell

Crystal is back at work overseeing the Emergency Department at Cabrini and sharing her story with members of her church.

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