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‘We just waited too late’: Wife of former BU coach hospitalized with COVID-19 warns people on the fence about vaccine

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 2:07 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The wife of a former golfer at Baylor University, who later became an assistant golf coach at the school, is speaking out while her husband is hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Waco-native Amber Burk, 35, says she and her husband Austin, 41, were on the fence about getting vaccinated when he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“He’s a fighter, and I know he’s going to get through this,” she said.

Amber says she and her husband were perfectly healthy and were both hesitant about getting vaccinated.

However, an upcoming trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, which now requires customers at bars and restaurants to show proof of vaccination, was leading them in the direction to get the shot.

“We thought, maybe it’s God saying you just need to be vaccinated, we’d been on the fence,” said Amber.

However, they waited too long, she said.

The day after they’d discussed getting the shot, on Friday, Aug. 13, Austin came down with a fever.

For peace of mind, he got tested before his daughter went to her first slumber party.

“He tested positive, and I didn’t believe it, I was just in shock that he tested positive,” said Amber.

From there, it got worse and worse, Amber says.

“They couldn’t give him the antibody infusion because he was too sick, so we had missed that window,” said Amber.

On Aug. 21, she says they went straight from the infusion center to Midland Memorial Hospital...and he hasn’t left.

“It was too late, we just waited too late,” said Amber.

For the past month--with Austin being put in a coma for three of those weeks--Amber, a stay-at-home mom, says she’s been trying to keep her family afloat.

”I would pray over him, I would tell him about who I talked to that day, funny things the kids said, I just kept believing to that he could hear me,” said Amber, who alternates hospital visits every other day with her mother-in-law.

The kids, a three-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl, haven’t been able to see their dad since his hospitalization, so they FaceTime daily.

“They want daddy home, Tee-ball is hard because the dads are out there throwing the ball with their little boys and mine doesn’t have his daddy out there,” said Amber. “The kids make him pictures all the time, his room is decorated in their artwork.”

The trips to the hospital have recently gotten a little easier: although he can’t talk yet, on Sept. 12, he started to wake up.

“Daddy’s awake: yeah, that was a really big day in our house,” said Amber. “I just cried, I was just emotional, and he cried.”

Tears of joy, gratitude and hope for a future the Burks came close to not having.

“The vaccine is not for everyone and not everyone agrees with it and that’s ok too, but if you’re on the fence, just do it, just pray about it and don’t look back, protect yourself and protect your family and your kids,” said Amber. “No one needs to be us living life this way.”

Amber says Austin has a long road ahead of him.

On Monday he was disconnected from a ventilator.

“There was a day that someone a couple doors down passed away, and that was eye-opening to me that, that’s where he was, in the critical care unit, I was just praying that it wasn’t his time,” said Amber. “God has really gotten us through this, and he has provided, and he made us feel comfort and peace.”

Once Austin is able, she says they want to get vaccinated together.

“I’m hoping we can go do it together, we’re going to take that step when we can,” she said.

She says Austin’s story has already made an impact.

“We have lots of friends who have changed their mind about the vaccination because of Austin,” said Amber. “Each day when I walk in there, the critical care unit where everything is glass, I look around, and everyone in there is around our age, and so that to me is an eye-opener, that this is really hitting our age group, so just protect yourself.”

A Midway High School graduate, Amber says she met Austin in the summer of 2010 soon after he became an assistant golf coach under Greg Priest.

Amber graduated from Baylor in 2008 and was a babysitter for Greg and Nida Priest at the time; the couple introduced them.

“Austin’s a fifth-generation Baylor grad, he golfed at Baylor, he coached at Baylor,” said Amber.

After leaving Waco in 2012, the Burks lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana for almost seven years before moving to the Midland area in 2019 (Austin is from Odessa).

“Waco is very special to us,” said Amber. “Waco will always be home.”

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