The family of a Kentucky woman is heartbroken after she died of COVID-19 just days after her planned wedding date.
Samantha Wendell, 29, had been looking forward to her wedding for about two years. She and her fiancé, Austin Eskew, got engaged in 2019 and planned their wedding for Aug. 21, according to NBC News.
Both Wendell and Eskew initially held off on getting vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The couple wanted to start a family shortly after their marriage, and Wendell's co-workers had warned her that the vaccines caused infertility — an unfounded claim that health departments around the world have debunked.
But as the delta variant began to spread throughout the summer, the couple changed their mind about vaccination. The two made appointments to get their shots by the end of July.
Before they could get vaccinated, Wendell started feeling sick. After returning from a bachelorette party in Nashville, Eskew said she developed a severe cough. The two soon tested positive for COVID-19, delaying their vaccine appointments.
But while Eskew recovered from the virus at home, Wendell's condition continued to worsen. She was taken to the hospital, and on Aug. 16 — five days before her wedding date — she was placed on a ventilator, NBC News reports.
Wendell's mother, Jeaneen, said that her daughter asked for a vaccine before she was put on a ventilator.
"It wasn't going to do any good at that point, obviously," she told NBC News. "It just weighs heavy on my heart that this could have easily been avoided."
Doctors struggled to stabilize Wendell, and she never regained the ability to breathe on her own. Wendell died on Sept. 10 after her family made the decision to take her off life support.
"Misinformation killed her," said Maria Vibandor Hayes, a cousin of Wendell who spoke to NBC News. "If we can save more lives and families' lives, then this is the gift that she left for us to deliver."
Wendell's mother told NBC that her daughter was to be married in the same Illinois church where she and her husband had been married. Instead, the church hosted Wendell's funeral, about a month after the scheduled wedding date.
"We are so heartbroken. It didn't have to end this way," Hayes wrote in a Facebook group for COVID-19 survivors earlier this month.
The CDC currently recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone aged 12 and up, including for those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant in the future. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for the partners of those who are trying to conceive.
"Currently, no evidence shows that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men," the CDC says.