Prosecutor Dies from COVID Complications After Delivering Son Prematurely to Save His Life: 'She Gave Her All'

A 32-year-old woman in Missouri has tragically died from complications related to the novel coronavirus shortly after giving birth to her son, who was born three months early.

JoEllen Engelbart, an assistant prosecutor for Jackson County, died on Saturday, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise funds for the family's medical bills, which has already garnered $116,352 toward its $100,000 goal as of Tuesday night.

"She gave her all during her fight and because of her efforts JoEllen and Matt's son, Ross Matthew, made his grand entrance into the world 3 months early," the page's description reads. "Baby Ross is a fighter just like his mother and will spend the next few months getting healthy to come home."

Engelbart died just four days after delivering her infant son, her family told WDAF-TV.

"The fact that she never got to hold him is devastating," her brother Larry Flanagan said. "Her whole life was the last few months dedicated to make sure Ross gets into this world. That’s all she cared about."

In addition to her work in the Special Victim's Unit, Engelbart volunteered at Rose Brooks, a domestic violence shelter in Kansas City, the local news outlet reported.

"She had spent so much time making the world a better place for kids to grow up," Flanagan said, "and then now this was her time and her turn to be a mother."

"She had so much to do, so much to prove, so much to complete to make this world a better place," Engelbart's uncle Ross Nigro added. "And the fact that, that was taken from her, from us. The world's a little worse off today."

Engelbart's son is still in the neonatal intensive care unit, but has been doing well, according to the family.

Kelly Collins, who worked alongside Engelbart at the prosecutor's office, told KMBC 9 that baby Ross is the family's first grandchild.

"I'm so grateful that Ross is here and I know the rest of the family is as well, but it's heartbreaking that she’s not here physically to be there for him," Collins said of Engelbart.

"I know one of the greatest losses of all of this is the loss of seeing Jo be a mom," Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. "She would've been a great one."

As of Tuesday, there have been more than 21,044,020 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and at least 357,156 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus database.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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