Woman who battled COVID-19 in pregnancy faces long road back

These days Sheenah Berry no longer has to speak in a whisper.

"My voice is coming back," Berry says.  "It's not as raspy, like before.  Before, I could not talk for this long without having my oxygen."

Berry spends most of her time and energy taking care of 7-month-old Kinsley.

"It's been a lot, because I'm still recovering and in my recovery phase, and she requires so much attention on a regular basis," she explains.

Almost a year has passed since the 38-year-old Rex mother of two contracted COVID-19 in August 2021.

At the time, she was 4-months pregnant, and had not been vaccinated against the virus.

"I was one of those who thought all of it was a hoax at first," Berry says.  "I thought I was too healthy to ever get COVID, or be affected the way that I was."

Within a week, Berry, was having trouble breathing, ending up in the ER at Piedmont Henry Hospital.

She was transferred to Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, where she would spend the next 4 and a half months, 136 days.

As her condition deteriorated, Berry was placed on an ECMO circuit, a kind of heart-lung bypass typically reserved the most critically ill COVID-19 patients.  

Dr. Peter Barrett, the director of Piedmont Healthcare's ECMO program, says they kept Berry on the advanced life support system for 2 months to try to buy her and her unborn baby time.

"The ultimate goal would be to try to get Rasheenah and her baby to the point of viability, where she could be delivered and managed by the neonatologist," Dr. Barrett says.

Pregnant woman in hospital gown is vaccinated by a nurse in the hospital.

Sheenah Berry is vaccinated at Piedmont Atlanta, where she was hospitalized with COVID-19 complications for 4 months. (Sheenah Berry)

Vaccinated in her hospital bed, Berry made it to 37 weeks gestation before Kinsley was safely delivered by caesarian section.

"My first initial thought was like relief," she remembers.  "It was, like, "Okay, we did it. We made it.  Thank you, God. I know for a fact that, had I been vaccinated, that my struggles in the hospital would not have been as bad as they were.  I'm just thankful to have come out on the other end."

It's been 7 months since she and Kinsley returned home.

"I had very low energy coming home from the hospital," Berry says.

She is now dealing with lingering health issues.

"The shortness of breath, the coughing, the continuous coughing," Berry says.  "My senses still have not come back fully, like the sense of smell and taste."  

She recently went grocery shopping alone for the first time in a year, and when she got short-winded,

"I just had to stop, take a breather and get myself together," she says.

But, things are slowly getting better.

Berry can walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes, and only occasionally needs oxygen.  But she still has a long road ahead.

"I just never imagined me being here," she says.  "I never imagined it affecting me the way that it did."