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Kentucky bride-to-be who was concerned about COVID vaccine dies of virus at age 29
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Kentucky bride-to-be who was concerned about COVID vaccine dies of virus at age 29

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Weeks before her wedding that was 11 years in the making, Samantha Wendell began feeling sick after returning from her Nashville bachelorette party.

It turned out to be COVID-19, which hospitalized the 29-year-old surgical technician from Grand Rivers, Kentucky. After a “valiant fight” with the virus, the 29-year-old died Sept. 10.

Her funeral was held Saturday in Illinois at the same site she planned on getting married a month prior.

Keep scrolling for the latest vaccination and virus numbers in our state and across the U.S.

Her fiance, Austin Eskew, said in an interview with NBC News the couple was unvaccinated due to infertility fears she had with the shot. She eventually decided in early July to get vaccinated, but she and Eskew both tested positive a week before they were scheduled to get their first doses.

The couple met in 2010 during their college orientation at Olivet Nazarene University, according to their wedding website. They dated for nine years before Eskew proposed in August 2019.

Wendell, the only person Eskew has ever dated, knew it was time for his fiance to go to the hospital when she had difficulty breathing, according to NBC News. She was placed on a ventilator Aug. 16, and the family disconnected her from life support last Friday when doctors said she had no chance for survival, NBC News reported.

“Misinformation killed her,” Wendell’s cousin, Maria Vibandor Hayes, said on Facebook. “We are so heartbroken. It didn’t have to end this way.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 12 years of age and older, including those who are trying to get pregnant or might become pregnant in the future, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no evidence that shows any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems in men and women, the CDC said.

As Wendell was hospitalized before her condition worsened, she asked if she could still receive the vaccine.

“It wasn’t going to do any good at that point, obviously,” her mother, Jeaneen Wendell, told NBC News. “It just weighs heavy on my heart that this could have easily been avoided.”

Wendell was described in her obituary as a woman who “had a heart of gold and when she set her mind on something, she let nothing stand in her way.”

One of her two brothers, Michael Wendell, said he will always look up to her.

“Life will not be the same without your beautiful smile and bubbly attitude,” he said. “Thank you for being the best sister I could ever ask for.”

Her aunt, Denise Picicci, said Samantha Wendell just started her job in December and loved “helping people no matter what.”

Kelsey Goodman Eskew, whose son was going to be the ring bearer in the August wedding, called Wendell “the sweetest and most caring person” she had ever met.


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