In August 2021, Autumn Carver received what would eventually become the worst news of her life — a positive Coronavirus diagnosis while she was pregnant with her son.
Having opted not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for fear of repeating previous miscarriages, Carver’s affliction would wind up being more severe than she had originally thought — starting what would turn into a yearslong journey of recovery.
It’s worth noting that in September 2021, the CDC issued a health advisory telling people that anyone who is currently, recently, or even thinking about getting pregnant should acquire the COVID-19 vaccine as it would “prevent severe illness, death, and pregnancy complications.”
Autumn Carver was on life support and her husband refused to take her off.
Once Carver was hospitalized, she required an emergency C-section to give birth to her baby boy, Huxley, at 33 weeks pregnant. Thankfully, Huxley was born healthy, but it would be months before he was held by his mother as she was still struggling with her COVID-19 sickness.
Shortly after Huxley was born, Carver was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine. The ECMO, which is a form of life support, removes carbon dioxide from red blood cells and allows for artificial oxygenation.
In 2020, the ECMO became more commonly used to treat patients with severe cases of the virus and could even reduce the mortality rate from 59-71% to 49%. Things were looking dire for Carver, who was fighting for her life in the ICU.
Beside her the entire time, however, was her supportive husband, Zach Carver. During an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network, Zach recalls “I was told that she had zero percent chance of survival. I mean, it was the worst day of my life.”
He never gave up hope. Zach would frequently post updates of Autumn’s journey on Facebook, frequently asking for “prayers” for his wife.
After 2 months on the ECMO, Autumn was to receive a lung transplant in October.
She was transferred from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. There, Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery, spoke with PEOPLE about Autumn’s health.
“When we took on Autumn, the probability was pretty low that she would get better because she had been on the ventilator and ECMO for an extended period of time,” he said.
“If you need ECMO for over a month, your probability of coming off without something like a lung transplant is less than 5 percent.”
However, Autumn was making progress after some tweaks to the ECMO and more time in recovery, so they decided to hold off on the transplant to see if she could recover on her own — and she did.
A reunion that was a long time coming, Autumn was able to hold her newborn son, Huxley, with the help of her husband and her family.
On November 3, 2021, Autumn “broke out of the ICU,” according to her husband’s Facebook post. Autumn had been taken off of the ECMO and left the ICU, but remained in the hospital as her recovery continued.
She started going to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy and on December 1, 2021 — after 99 days of recovery — she was able to go home with her husband, Huxley, and got to see her two daughters just in time for Christmas.
Doctors said that Autumn came away with 40% lung capacity and some nerve damage in her leg, but called her recovery a “miracle.”
“I think using the word ‘miraculous’ is a very appropriate word,” Bharat told GMA. “She’s not going to get her lung function back to where it was before COVID hit her, but she’ll be able to lead a normal life.”