Anna Spoerre The Kansas City Star
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Anna Spoerre reports, "Braxten Goodwin was 24 when she died of the virus in early August. Now her family, still wading through grief, is urging community members, especially those who are pregnant, to get what Goodwin at the time felt she couldn't: the vaccine."
Kansas City, Mo.
When Braxten Goodwin walked across the stage to receive her bachelor's degree in 2019, her extended family, packed in an overflow room and watching from a screen at Lincoln University in Columbia, Missouri, burst with pride.
When she gave birth to her first child in Kansas City a few months later, a dozen family members sat around the waiting room, eager to shower her in love and support.
But when she delivered her second child in July after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Goodwin was alone.
Family held their breath and said their prayers from home.
They had witnessed her long list of accolades, but never expected to see COVID-19 tear her life away from them so soon.
Goodwin was 24 when she died of the virus in early August. Now her family, still wading through grief, is urging community members, especially those who are pregnant, to get what Goodwin at the time felt she couldn't: the vaccine.
Braxten Goodwin was bright and energetic, family said. She was an athlete and an honor's student up until the day she completed her criminal justice degree. She loved the Los Angeles Lakers and being a mother.
Born into a family of preachers, ministers and musicians, she quickly took on a talent for all of the above, writing poems and sermons, preaching to young people, and joining the band and choir.
But her grandmother, Pamela Goodwin, was proudest of the moment she watched her become a mother. "I saw her strength then, and I saw Braxten change from trying to be grown, to step into adulthood," Pamela Goodwin said. "She grew up overnight, and that was really exciting to see her transformation." Goodwin last saw her granddaughter — last heard her laugh — when family gathered on July 4th. A few days later the young woman got sick.
"Who would have ever thought this was all going to play out like this?" Goodwin told The Star. "We would have never thought in a million years, but it did happen."
Family doesn't know where she contracted COVID. But roughly a week after the diagnosis, and just barely into her third trimester, Goodwin called an ambulance. Chest and stomach pain left her gasping for help. A day later, on July 18, she gave birth to her second child.
She never got to hold her son, who was immediately rushed away, family said — doctors feared she might pass COVID to him. He later tested positive for the virus and spent three weeks in the NICU.
Tamika Horton, Braxten's mother, said wasn't able to visit her daughter in the hospital until she was on a ventilator and dying.
Doctors had broken the news to family: Braxten wasn't going to get better.
Before it had become too difficult for her to speak and breathe, Braxten told her mother she wouldn't wish the virus on anyone.
She died on Aug. 2.
Horton finally got to hold her grandson, Levite, in her arms on Aug. 12. Two days later, she buried her daughter.
Looking at her grandson now, Horton is overwhelmed with sorrow and joy.
"He keeps me going, because losing her like that was so traumatizing," Horton said. "(My grandchildren) bring me strength right now."
Braxten's children are her legacy, family said. In their young eyes they are starting to find healing. Nova, nearly two, has her mother's smile. Her personality recently started shining through more. She displays a dramatic eye-roll, its resemblance to her mother's is uncanny. They're eager to see how much of Braxten is reflected as Levite grows.
"He had to come into this life early, and he came in warring," Goodwin, Levite's great grandmother, said. "Her spirit will live on through the children."
Braxten wanted to get the vaccine, but she worried it could harm her baby. For months, recommendations on whether expecting mothers should get vaccinated varied from doctor to doctor.
The rest of Goodwin's family has been vaccinated for some time. They wish Braxten would've had the knowledge to join them. They wonder if then she might still be alive.
On Aug. 11, just over a week after Braxten died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing the vaccine was safe in pregnancy. It was the confirmation she had been waiting on. "It was a week too late," her mother said.
Horton asked the community to get vaccinated and to wear a mask.
"I feel like people don't take it seriously until it knocks on their door," she said. "People have their opinion, but (the vaccine) will help you in the long run."
Goodwin, the grandmother, said she was hesitant about the vaccine at first before eventually deciding to make an appointment.
"I don't wish nobody to go through what we've gone through," she said. "If you can do it, please do it. Protect yourself and others as well."
"Get the vaccine. It definitely can save lives. This is a dream for us. This is a horrible nightmare. When are we going to wake up? But it's not, it's reality." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.