FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — COVID-19 numbers in Arkansas continue to trend downward as more people start to put the pandemic behind them and move on. However, for some, moving on isn’t as easy.

“It was tragic,” said Eric Robison.

COVID-19 hit Robison’s family hard last September when his wife died from complications.

“Emily was in the hospital last year and she wasn’t doing good at that time,” he said. “I was not in a good mental space.”

Robison’s wife, Emily, was seven months pregnant with their daughter when she was admitted into the ICU at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. She was then put in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Doctors had to perform an emergency C-section, and baby Carmen was born two months early on August 25.

Emily died on September 20 at the age of 22.

“Carmen was still in the NICU, still trying to grow and get out,” said Robison. “So flash forward to now and everything seems to be a total change.”

Change that is for the better. Carmen is now a happy, healthy one-year-old who is already working on her walking skills.

“I am enjoying seeing her become her own person,” he said. “She looks a lot like her mom, so it’s something to see her grow into that every day and just be her own person.”

Eric and Carmen have also found a new family with his girlfriend, Alexis Quiroc, and her four-year-old son. Alexis said Eric took her and her son out to lunch for their first date and the couple hit it off.

“My son takes the role of a big brother serious, so he’s loving having a little sister,” said Quiroc. “And I always wanted a daughter. We all transitioned really easily.”

Alexis recognizes that Eric will always have love in his heart for Emily and that she is there to help in his healing process.

“Going into a relationship with somebody who lost a spouse takes patience,” she said. “Having patience and just being for them when they need it.”

“At first you feel guilty moving on, but there is no time frame for healing,” said Eric. “Things did move kind of fast for us, but it flowed together and it’s what our families needed.”

Eric also had support from a lot of strangers thanks to a social media call for help from Emily’s ICU nurse-turned family friend, Ashlee Schwartz. Hundreds of people donated baby items to Eric and Carmen, which all landed on Ashlee’s front porch.

Eric Robison with gifts sent from people around the country for him and his daughter, Carmen, after people heard his story of losing his wife to COVID-19.

The GoFundMe Ashlee started for the dad and daughter currently has $25,274.

“It was unbelievable,” said Robison. “I never in a million years would have guessed that a lot of people would come together like that for me, my wife, and my daughter.”

Now, Eric and Alexis can focus on helping baby Carmen continue to grow into a toddler who is full of life, and plan to keep her mother’s memory alive.

“I hope that when the time is right, and we do tell her about Emily, that she sees her mom as her hero,” he said.

Eric and Alexis currently live in Oklahoma City, but oftentimes travel back to see family in Fort Smith. They are looking forward to the possibility of moving back to the River Valley sometime in the future.

Below are links to the two stories KNWA/FOX24 did covering Emily’s death last year.