Juan Guevara was the first in the family to get sick.
In mid-August, the 44-year-old father of two came down with a sore throat, a fever and the chills. He soon tested positive for the coronavirus.
Two days after he received the test result, his pregnant wife started feeling ill, too. At the family’s home in Victorville, Calif., about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Esmeralda Ramos began complaining about muscle pain and headaches. Her back was hurting. Then, she started coughing.
Worried about the baby, who was due in November, Ramos made the decision to drive herself to the hospital. Still sick himself, Guevara needed to be home to take care of their 2- and 7-year-olds, the latter of whom had also tested positive.
Over the next few weeks, Ramos’s condition worsened and she was placed on a ventilator. On Sunday, Guevara got a call from the hospital informing him that the doctors could no longer hear the baby’s heartbeat.
“When I got to the hospital on Sunday afternoon, unfortunately they told me that he had passed away,” Guevara told The Washington Post.
Neither Guevara nor Ramos, 43, had received the coronavirus vaccine. Guevara told The Post that he was unsure about doing so and that his wife feared the shot would negatively affect the baby.
“She was always worried about the baby,” he said in a phone interview early Wednesday.
Ramos tested positive for the coronavirus just a few days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance recommending that pregnant people get vaccinated. Although the CDC had previously said that those who are pregnant were “eligible” for the vaccine, the agency maintained a neutral stance that stopped short of an official recommendation.
As of Sept. 4, only about 25% of the pregnant population in the U.S. had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to a CDC data set.
CDC officials now say the vaccine does not increase the risk of miscarriage and that the benefits of being vaccinated against the coronavirus outweigh any known risks. Pregnant people who do contract the virus are more likely to experience severe symptoms that require hospitalization and the need for a ventilator, and they have an increased risk for preterm births and “other adverse pregnancy outcomes.”
Guevara said he had to wait more than a week to visit his wife in the hospital because of his own illness. After he received a negative test result, he rushed to her bedside. At the time, Ramos seemed to be in fair health, although she still had that cough.
“She was OK. She was talking to me. She was fine,” Guevara recalled.
But in the coming days, Ramos’s oxygen levels dropped, and the couple followed the doctors’ recommendation that she be placed on the ventilator. And on Sunday, more than seven months into her pregnancy, Ramos miscarried. The couple had planned to name the baby Jonathan Julius.
Guevara said early Wednesday that he has been unable to communicate with his wife, who is sedated and “very critical right now.” He has tried to stay positive for their children, praying that their mother returns home.
In retrospect, Guevara said he “shouldn’t have listened” to other people’s opinions about the vaccine, including those who questioned why he needed it. Once those seeds of doubt were planted, they took root.
“Different people told me different stories,” he told The Post. “Why get something that I don’t need? It was just me being stubborn.”
Guevara said he plans to get vaccinated as soon as he can – and he encourages others to do the same.
“Wear your mask and get vaccinated as soon as possible. Don’t even think about it,” he said. “People are going to regret it just like me.”