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Former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader Krystal Anderson dies age 40 after childbirth

Krystal Anderson, a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, has died at age 40 due to sepsis following a stillbirth.

Anderson, who cheered for more than 100 games, passed away on 20 March, the official Chiefs Cheer team confirmed on Instagram. A GoFundMe page shared that Anderson was hospitalised at 21 weeks pregnant and delivered her daughter, Charlotte Willow, who was stillborn. She developed a fever one day after the stillbirth and battled sepsis, which led to organ failure. After she was placed on life support, Anderson “underwent three surgeries, but the source of infection remained elusive”.

“In the early hours of March 20, surrounded by her devoted family, sweet Krissy passed away,” her GoFundMe page read. “As a former NFL cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs, Krissy brought her energy and passion to every performance for 10 seasons - she was a dynamic athlete.”

In addition to cheering for the Chiefs from 2006 to 2011 and 2013 to 2016, Anderson was also a yoga instructor and a software engineer who was passionate about women’s health and Black women in STEM fields, her husband Clayton Anderson told FOX4. “I feel lost,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in this house and it feels empty.”

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It arises when the body’s “normal response to an infection injures and overwhelms its own tissues and organs,” sepsis expert and paediatric intensive care consultant Dr Colin Begg previously told The Independent, leading to septic shock, multi-organ failure, and death.

In the United States, at least 1.7 million adults develop sepsis in one year alone, the CDC reported. The Sepsis Alliance states that during childbirth, sepsis can occur because of an infection related to the pregnancy.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that maternal deaths in the US have more than doubled over two decades, with Black mothers dying at the highest rate. Black women are also three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, according to the CDC. There are many factors that contribute to these disparities, such as unequal healthcare, structural racism, and implicit bias in medicine.

Krystal Anderson, former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, dies following battle with sepsis (GoFundMe)
Krystal Anderson, former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, dies following battle with sepsis (GoFundMe)

Taking to Instagram, the official account for the Chiefs Cheer team shared a heartfelt tribute in honour of Anderson’s legacy. “We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of CC alum Krystal,” they began the post. “She was loved and adored by her teammates, fans, and strangers who were never strangers for long.”

During her time as a NFL cheerleader, Anderson attended the Pro Bowl as the Chiefs representative in 2015, served as a captain of her team, cheered during the London game, and visited US Army troops throughout the country and overseas. She also served in an alumni role during cheerleading practices and Chiefs games.

“We will miss her kind spirit, joyful energy, and her sparkle,” they continued. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones. We will cherish every moment we had with her. At a later date, we will share how we will continue to honour her legacy.”

While working as a software engineer at Oracle Health, Anderson was awarded for her work in developing software that assesses the risk of postpartum hemorrhage, her obituary stated. She married her husband Clayton in July 2021 and their first child, James Charles, also died in infancy.

“Krissy is reunited with their babies James Charles and Charlotte Willow,” the GoFundMe page read. “God was eager to have her back, even though our hearts weren’t ready. Your generosity and compassion will forever echo the love she shared with us all.”

Anderson’s family and friends have organised the fundraiser to establish Krystal’s Legacy Fund.