Husband of former NFL cheerleader who died after stillbirth raises sepsis awareness with heart wrenching story

Former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader Krystal Anderson and her husband, Clayton Anderson, had already lost one child.

James was stillborn in 2022.

So, when the couple learned that Krystal, 40, was pregnant again, they felt it was a message from their departed son.

“It was like our little sign from him that, ‘Hey, Mom, Dad, I got you. Don’t worry about it,'” Clayton told ABC News.

(Video: YouTube)

In February of 2023, in a bid to mitigate the chances of another loss, Krystal “underwent a procedure to remove fibroids which are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus, according to the National Institutes of Health,” ABC reports. And, in December, she “had a miscarriage scare.”

“One of the issues that I guess I have with the system overall is Krystal is 40, and she’s Black, and we’d had a loss before, but even then they say you know, you can’t start a plan with maternal fetal medicine or the high-risk maternity doctors until you get to week 14,” Clayton said.

More complications followed, and, at 20 weeks, Krystal was prescribed semi-bedrest for two weeks in order to reach the 22-week point.

“On Saturday, March 16, later in week 20, the couple rushed to the hospital after Krystal began to feel back pains, a symptom Clayton Anderson said her OB doctor told her could be a result of contractions and dehydration,” ABC News reports. “After running tests, he said doctors found the presence of amniotic fluid and could not detect a heartbeat in the fetus by 9 pm on Saturday evening.”

As they were grieving the loss of their daughter, Charlotte Willow, Krystal “began to spike a fever and developed signs of severe sepsis,” according to ABC. “Clayton Anderson said the doctors told him they gave Krystal an epidural and attempted to allow her to have a natural birth, but the move was not successful.”

Krystal’s kidney, liver, and lungs were failing. After several surgeries, Krystal Anderson died early on March 20, from sepsis-related complications.

“She was my world… my best friend and obviously the love of my life and mother to our children,” Clayton said.

Sepsis is the body’s inability to respond to an infection.

According to ABC News, maternal sepsis is more likely to occur in black women, like Krystal:

Maternal sepsis, a life-threatening infection that leads to organ injury and failure during pregnancy, childbirth, or the post-partum period, disproportionately affects Black women, like Krystal Anderson. Black and Hispanic communities are more commonly associated with higher rates of morbidity and mortality in sepsis compared to the white population,” according to Healthcare, a medical journal published in the National Library of Medicine.

Experiencing septic shock post-pregnancy is far more common after a stillbirth compared to a live birth, according to a Stanford Medicine study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology medical journal. “Women with stillbirth were 14 times more likely than women who had live births to go into shock or experience sepsis (a blood infection),” according to the study.

The devastating loss has Clayton questioning the maternal healthcare system.

“All pregnancy is high risk, especially, more so, when you’re a woman of color, or you’re older, and they should be treated that way from the start,” he said. “Expecting somebody who’s had a loss to go four weeks in between seeing their care providers… That’s the same protocol that’s done for a 23-year-old that’s very healthy.”

“It can’t be a one-size-fits-all,” Clayton stated.

“Clayton Anderson said he hopes some of Krystal Anderson’s legacies include more Black women working in STEM, improved outcomes for Black women in pregnancy, and a rise in awareness around stillbirth pregnancies,” ABC News reports.

“Those are moms,” Clayton said. “And they may not have their babies with them. But they’re still mothers.”

Melissa Fine

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