Pregnant Myrtle Beach mother gives birth while suffering from near-fatal case of COVID-19

Patient care tech Octavia Jenkins-Watson checks Prem Koonkhuntod's vital signs. Koonkhuntod is...
Patient care tech Octavia Jenkins-Watson checks Prem Koonkhuntod's vital signs. Koonkhuntod is recovering from a near-fatal case of COVID-19. Her baby was born while she was unconscious.(Source: MUSC Health/Photos by Sarah Pack)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 12:53 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WMBF) – A Myrtle Beach mother of three is slowly recovering from COVID-19 which almost took her life and her baby’s life.

Prem Koonkhuntod realized she wasn’t feeling well on Aug. 3 so she went out and got a COVID-19 test. It turned out positive. Prem had not gotten vaccinated due to her pregnancy.

Her symptoms escalated and she was admitted to the hospital and then transferred to MUSC Health in Charleston.

“I remember they took me to the room, and the doctor came and talked. After that, they took me to the intensive care unit. After that, I don’t remember,” Prem said in an interview with MUSC Health.

At one point, her husband Terry received a call from the hospital asking if he wanted doctors to focus on his wife or their third child.

There was also a moment where Prem’s heart stopped beating but was restarted after the intensive care unit team gave her emergency chest compressions and medication.

There were over 100 people involved in her care and brought out all the resources, including an ECMO machine.

ECMO stands for extra corporeal membrane oxygenation which is usually used as a last resort to help with oxygen.

“I worked with our interventional cardiology colleagues to stabilize her by putting her on ECMO so we could deliver her baby,” said Daniel Young, M.D., a critical care fellow who was part of the team.

A specialist said this was the first time they had to deliver a baby while the mother was on an ECMO machine.

Thankfully, Prem and her newborn baby survived, but it would be a few weeks before she would meet her third child, Alex.

A nurse holds one-month-old Alex.
A nurse holds one-month-old Alex.(Source: MUSC Health/Photos by Sarah Pack)

Prem finally woke up and was able to be taken off the ECMO machine, and has made remarkable progress ever since. She’s now working with a physical therapist to recover from the damage done by COVID and Alex is thriving.

“To have her and her baby both doing well – that’s the reason we do what we do,” Young said.

But Young added the team’s work at the hospital is far from over.

“A lot of the general public doesn’t know how hard the staff here in the intensive care units at MUSC and across the state are working. So I think we really need to give a lot of credit to the ICU nurses and respiratory therapists, residents, advanced practice providers and other health care team members who are working really hard around the clock, dealing with this pandemic,” Young said.

Prem was discharged from MUSC Health on Thursday and was able to go home instead of a long-term care facility because of the progress that she had made.

After going through her ordeal, Prem believes that everyone, including pregnant women, should get the vaccine.


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