By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Blood appeared in Kira Dixon Johnson’s catheter, shortly after she had given birth to her second child.
Her husband, Charles Johnson immediately alerted nurses and a CT scan was ordered STAT (no delay, at once) at 4 pm.
Time ticked away and no CT scan was performed. An ultrasound was done at 6 pm that showed her abdomen was filing up with fluid.
“I’m begging and pleading and asked where’s the CT scan,” Johnson said. “I thought it was supposed to be a priority. (Staff) said, ‘Your wife isn’t a priority right now..”
At 9 pm, she received a blood transfusion.
“It wasn’t until after midnight that they took Kera to the OR (operating room). I took her hand, and she said, ‘Baby I’m scared.’ I tried to calm her down, by telling her that everything was going to be okay. The doctor says to me, ‘I’m going to go back into the same incision I made. She’ll be back in 15 minutes.’ And that was the last time I saw my wife alive. When they took her back, they opened her up and found 3 ½ liters of blood in her abdomen and she coded immediately.”
According to the Centers for Disease control, about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.
Advocates for maternal healthcare are calling on Congress to take additional action to better support pregnant and birthing women, as added healthcare challenges arise from the coronavirus.
“Even before the pandemic hit, our country was one of the most dangerous in which to give birth. Now, pregnant and birthing people (and those who care for them and support them) are more vulnerable than ever as health care systems and clinicians are prioritizing patients with COVID-19, prenatal and postpartum care is being limited, and visitation and labor support professional policies are changing to allow one or no people to accompany birthing people,” Katie Shea Barrett, Executive Director of March for Moms said. “Most dire, Labor and Delivery units are being closed to make room for COVID-19 cases. During these uncertain times, we must continue to be strong advocates for the support and dignity of mothers. This moment presents us with an opportunity to be creative about how we approach meaningful policy change for the mothers and families who now, more than ever, need our support.”
Added support is needed to ensure mothers are able to care for the 116 million babies that are expected to be born during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Millions of mothers all over the world embarked on a journey of parenthood in the world as it was. They now must prepare to bring a life into the world as it has become – a world where expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centers for fear of getting infected, or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lockdowns,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said. “It is hard to imagine how much the coronavirus pandemic has recast motherhood.”
March for Moms is asking lawmakers to increase access to and payment for telehealth during pregnancy and postpartum; expand midwifery-led models and birth centers; and to highly consider the welfare of families and women, when making tough policy decisions at the Federal, State and health system levels.
“We commend the Members of Congress and Administration for working swiftly and tirelessly to meet the incredible needs of families in this public health crisis,” Barrett said. “We are particularly pleased to see the strong support for paid leave, Medicaid continuation for pregnant people, and the financial support for states to address families' needs locally. At the same time, many unmet needs remain for growing families in particular which must be addressed as quickly as possible. This is particularly urgent for families with low-wage workers, immigrants and women of color, who already face deep inequities in maternal health outcomes and unjust barriers to health and well-being.”
To better protect the well-being of unborn babies and infants, UNICEF suggest pregnant and nursing mothers take the following percussions:
• Follow precautions to protect themselves from exposure to the virus, closely monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek advice from the nearest designated facility if they have concerns or experience symptoms;
• Take the same precautions to avoid COVID -19 infection as other people: practice physical distancing, avoid physical gatherings and use online health services; • Seek medical care early in if they live in affected or at-risk areas and have fever, cough or difficulty breathing;
• Continue breastfeeding their baby even if they are infected or suspect being infected as the virus has not been found in samples of breast milk. Mothers with COVID-19 should wear a mask when feeding their baby; wash hands before and after touching the baby; and routinely clean and disinfect surfaces;
• Continue to hold the newborn and perform skin-to-skin care; Ask their midwife or doctor where they feel is the safest place to give birth and have a birth plan in place to reduce anxiety and to ensure they get to the place on time;
• Continue medical support, including routine immunizations, after the baby is born.
“This is a particularly poignant Mother’s Day, as many families have been forced apart during the coronavirus pandemic,” Fore said. “But it is also a time for unity, a time to bring everyone together in solidarity. We can help save lives by making sure that every pregnant mother receives the support she needs to give birth safely in the months to come.”
Meanwhile, Johnson and his two young sons will spend Mother’s Day remembering their love one.
“Kera deserved better. My sons deserved better. Women all over this country deserve better,” Johnson said. “No statistic that can quantify what it’s like to tell an 18-month old that his mother is never coming home. There’s nothing I can do to bring Kera back, but I can work to make sure we send mothers home with their babies.”
And, we should cherish the gift of life during and after the pandemic.
Soon, March for Moms will be calling on Congress to take action. For more information, visit www.marchformoms.org.