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Local pregnant woman, 33, dies from COVID-19
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Local pregnant woman, 33, dies from COVID-19

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Pregnant with her second child, Ashley Totten started feeling bad about a month ago, and her father asked her to see a doctor.

She didn’t. Two more weeks passed, her condition worsened, and Ray Totten, who lives in King George County, offered to pick her up and take her to get medical help.

“She promised me she would go, and unfortunately, she didn’t,” he said.

By Sunday, April 18, Ashley Totten, who was more than six months pregnant, had a hard time walking and talking. The rescue squad took her to the hospital, where the 33-year-old and her unborn baby, named Amiya Nevaeh Totten, both died from complications of COVID-19.

The baby’s middle name is heaven spelled backwards, and the obituary for her and her mother said they both had “departed from this life to receive their wings among the angels.”

On Thursday, Roy Totten was finalizing arrangements for her funeral service on Saturday. He said he was feeling “kind of reserved right now” and wasn’t up to talking, saying her obituary covers the pertinent details.

He did say that his daughter, who had a 9-year-old named Briana Rae, often moved between his home in King George and that of her mother, Cheryl Lee Stafford, in Stafford County.

“She was a free spirit,” he said. “She didn’t stay in one place at all.”

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On Facebook, Ashley Totten’s aunt, Traci King of Fredericksburg, noted the family’s despair.

“We love you so much, and COVID took you from us,” she wrote. “You are a beautiful angel now. I can’t even explain the hurt of losing you and your unborn child.”

The loss of such a young person seems so hard to grasp that one of King’s Facebook friends couldn’t believe it. “Is this for real?” she asked.

When King responded, “Yes, honey,” and mentioned again that she was pregnant, other friends expressed their shock and sorrow.

Ashley Totten was the third person in their 30s to die from COVID-19 in the Rappahannock Area Health District, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

Early on in the pandemic, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weren’t sure what impact the virus might have on pregnant women or their babies because so little information was known about the disease. More than a year into the health crisis, the CDC acknowledges that pregnant women face an increased risk of developing a more serious illness than other women their age.

A study published in January in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found they also have a higher chance of dying. Of the 240 pregnant women with COIVD-19 who were studied by the University of Washington, the majority had mild symptoms—or none at all—and healthy pregnancies.

But three of the 240 women died. Compared to others their age, the pregnant women were 13 times more likely to die from the virus and 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with severe cases.

A story about the study on the website ContagionLive, which shares news stories about contagious diseases, quoted one of the authors who wrote about the study. Kristina M. Adams Waldorf said she was surprised by the “shockingly high” mortality rate.

She said researchers fear the deaths from pregnant women with COVID-19 have been “massively undercounted nationally,” and that the virus has a greater impact on pregnant patients, particularly those with underlying conditions, than previously thought.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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