PENDLETON — An infant boy born prematurely last month in Pendleton died the same day he tested positive for COVID-19, making him Oregon’s youngest victim of the deadly coronavirus.
David James Wadley Jr. is the first Oregon child age 9 or younger to die of COVID-19. His death was one of six coronavirus fatalities reported on Thursday, Feb. 18.
Ashley Wadley, his mother, was 31 weeks pregnant when she tested positive for COVID-19 about Jan. 11 or 12. She told The Oregonian/OregonLive she first lost her sense of taste and smell — and that she was bedridden with a high fever one day later.
Doctors told Wadley over the phone that she had “no chance” of passing COVID-19 to the baby, she said.
Children are less likely than adults to develop severe cases of the virus, state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said in a statement, and infant deaths from COVID-19 are “extremely rare.”
Wadley, a 29-year-old Athena resident, stayed home, took Tylenol and drank fluids as she waited to test negative so she could see a doctor in person. But on Jan. 14 — two or three days after she tested positive — her unborn son suddenly stopped moving in her belly.
“That’s how I knew something was wrong,” she said. “Before I got sick, he was nonstop moving.”
She tried to get him to move again — by rocking back and forth, for example, and drinking something sweet — but went to the hospital on Jan. 15 because her son still wasn’t moving.
Her son was born that night through an emergency cesarean section. He weighed three pounds, 15 ounces, and was immediately flown to the Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington.
Wadley stayed behind at St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton.
At first, the infant boy had to be intubated, but doctors took the tubes out after he was able to breathe on his own and told Wadley her son was doing much better, she said.
“He was spunky,” Wadley said. “He was doing great.”
But her son’s condition had rapidly deteriorated by the next night. Wadley said he had developed two brain bleeds, which were causing seizures, and that his lungs were cloudy.
He died on Jan. 17, moments after receiving results of a positive COVID-19 test.
After giving birth, Wadley was never again able to see her son alive.
“I had COVID so they wouldn’t let me around him,” she said.
The infant boy had undisclosed, underlying health conditions, according to the Oregon Health Authority. But Wadley said she was unaware of any health problems her son may have had, aside from his premature birth.
“I did every test to make sure he was 100% healthy, no defects, no nothing,” she said.