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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — These days Sarah and Matthew Heyl are eagerly watching their almost 4-month-old Naomi thrive, waiting on her first real smile. 

About 15 and a half weeks ago, there was little to smile about for the family. 

“I started to rapidly decline and by the time I was admitted to the ER, I couldn’t walk. Had to be in a wheelchair. At home I needed assistance, used a walker,” Sarah Heyl said. 

It was COVID-19. It was something this then-pregnant, very healthy and already mom of a toddler never thought she would be at risk for since she was working remotely and sequestered from the outside world. 

That and previous miscarriages convinced her to go against her obstetrician’s advice and delay getting vaccinated. 

“I contracted COVID from a family member who had a brief interaction with my then 16-month-old, and it was enough to infect him. Luckily, he didn’t have any serious symptoms,” Sarah Heyl said. 

But for mom and dad, that was not the case. Matthew Heyl had a breakthrough case, with his last vaccine being in April. 

As sick as he was, watching his wife Sarah was worse. 

“The thing, that last straw for me was I actually sat and started counting her breaths she was taking in a minute. And it was terrible. She was up to about 36 breaths a minute, and I was like I got to rush her to the ER,” Matthew Heyl recalled. 

At 32 weeks, doctors made the decision that a C-section was the best chance of survival for the mother and baby. 

Sarah Heyl is grateful for all the effort that saved her life and that of her daughter after they were put at risk by delaying vaccination. 

Now, she has a message for other moms. 

“Something that will stick with me is that because I was positive, Naomi, I didn’t get to meet Naomi until 10 days after she was born,” Sarah Heyl said. “So, that was a tough time that I would never want another mother to experience that separation after birth where you can’t see your child, you can’t touch your child.”