California

Fresno rallies around firefighter whose wife died after giving birth to twin girls

Amanda Sawyer was the proud wife of firefighter Nick Reeder.

The couple met four years ago. They had their first date at Piazza Del Pane in Fresno and had an instant connection, Reeder said. The date went so well they continued it at a nearby pub.

"Her personality was so fun," Reeder said. "Her laugh was contagious."

A high point in their marriage came April 9, when Sawyer, 37, gave birth to twins — two healthy baby girls. But no sooner than she delivered the babies, Reeder complained of not feeling well, and within an hour she was dead.

Reeder, now a single father of five, is learning to put together the pieces of his family's life without his wife.

Reeder, a fire captain, has worked for Fresno County Fire and CalFire for 14 years.

Whenever the couple was out in public together, Sawyer would nudge Reeder and say under her breath, "Tell them you're a firefighter."

She decorated their home with firefighter memorabilia and drove by Fresno County/CalFire Station 85 on Nees Avenue just so she could show their children where Reeder worked. She often visited the station with the couples' three children: Caleb, 11, Anistyn, 6 and Layla, 3.

Sawyer ran the household when Reeder was gone for work and never complained. She was a great mother and wife, Reeder said.

In November the couple tied the knot in Monterey. Originally from Morro Bay, the beach held a special place in Sawyer's heart. "She loved it. It was perfect," Reeder said.

Earlier in 2017, the couple learned Sawyer was pregnant. During an ultrasound, the doctor turned off the lights, and a second heartbeat showed up on the screen. Reeder instantly saw it, and realized the couple would be having twins.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Sawyer said.

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Fresno County firefighter Nick Reeder holds his newborn twin girls, Kaia Lyn and Kelce Jo. Screen shot GoFundMe

Sawyer had a smooth and healthy pregnancy, where she formed a close bond with the babies, Reeder said. "She knew their personalities and their names," he said. "Now that I've met them, she was spot on."

On April 9, the couple arrived at Clovis Community Medical Center for a scheduled c-section. Before the procedure, the couple took a selfie together

The procedure went perfectly, and two baby girls were born. Kelce was born first by two minutes, and Kaia shortly followed.

"She bopped them on the nose and had a few special moments with them," Reeder said.

But then Sawyer turned to him and said she wasn't feeling well. She passed out, and doctors and nurses swarmed the room. Sawyer died within the hour.

"She was my rock," Reeder said.

Reeder commended the doctors and nurses who attended to Sawyer, saying they did everything they could to save her. After her death, the hospital staff cared for Reeder, now a single dad.

Since then, the community has rallied around Reeder and his family, raising thousands of dollars through a GoFundMe and planning meals for the family through mid May through a Meal Train page.

"What should have been a beautiful moment in Nick and Amanda's life turned bittersweet in a matter of moments," said Katherine Justice-Straps, the organizer of the GoFundMe effort.

Reeder is sharing his family's story to raise awareness about maternal mortality. "This could happen to anybody," he said.

He's thankful to his immediate family, the support of fellow firefighters and the community.

Sawyer's memorial was on Sunday at the San Joaquin Wine Club, complete with an honor guard, Reeder's fire engine, hospital staff, her former co-workers and boss and more.

""I wish I were half the person she was," Reeder said. "… I was so lucky to spend four years with that woman."

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