'She only saw him for 10 seconds': Virginia Beach mother dies from rare birth complication hours after delivery

Eli and Shawn Burr .png
Posted at 12:02 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 12:08:10-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - She planned for his arrival for months.

"She was so excited to have Maddox here," said Shawn Burr.

Eli Burr and her husband Shawn excitedly went to the hospital on May 14, ready for the birth of their second child.

"I get choked up because she only got to see him for 10 seconds," said Shawn.

The 29-year-old Chesapeake schoolteacher never got to kiss or cradle her beautiful baby boy.

"Within 60 seconds of her water breaking, her body went into shock and the baby went into distress," he recalls.

Eli was rushed into intensive care, and Shawn was clueless as to what was happening to his wife.

"It was an embolism that spread to her heart. Everything went into shock, and it caused a chain reaction where her organs were failing," he said.

Within 36 hours, Eli Burr was gone. Doctors say she suffered from an amniotic fluid embolism, or AFE, a rare birth complication only affecting one in 40,000 deliveries, according to the AFE Foundation. The baby's amniotic fluid enters the mother's bloodstream, causing a fatal reaction.

"You are not prepared for it - to go in the hospital, and my wife did not come home with me," said Shawn.

Baby Maddox spent more than a week in the NICU with complications but is now doing well and is home with Shawn.

Burr is now a widower, balancing each hour between grief and joy.

"I can't grieve her properly with a 17-day-old baby and a 2-year-old who asks where her mommy is," he said.

Leila and Maddox are two young children now left without a mother; Shawn now a single parent in a split second, navigating the unknown.

"What will I tell Maddox? I will have to tell him, 'Your mom died giving birth to you,'" he says with tear-filled eyes.

In the couple's Kempsville home, baby gifts, clothes and toys now sit in the shadows of an urn guarding Eli's remains.

"Eli was always so bubbly, so giving. She was full of life and put everyone in front of her," said Kasey Brooks, Eli's best friend.

A mother who died from something unpredictable and unpreventable. A father now working to raise awareness for expectant mothers to have this on their radar.

"Have something ready for the 'what if' because my 'what if' has shaken me and it will forever," said Shawn. "Maddox was her last gift to us. She made sure he was safe, and her kids are worth more to her than her own life."

The family has a GoFundMe that has raised more than $100,000 for funeral and other expenses for Shawn and the two children. If you would like to donate, click here.