Charles Johnson is suing Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital after his wife, Kira, died giving birth to their now three-year-old son Langston in what was supposed to be a routine C-section.
“I just held her by her hand and said, ‘Please look, my wife isn’t doing well,’ ” Johnson said, according to KTLA-TV. “This woman looked me directly in my eye and said, ‘Sir, your wife is not a priority right now.’ It wasn’t until 12.30 a.m. the next morning that they finally took the decision to take Kira back to surgery.”
By then her abdomen was filled with blood — 3.5 liters, he said — and she died almost as soon as they opened her up. She had been bleeding internally for nearly 10 hours.
The hospital did not comment other than to assert that “Cedars-Sinai thoroughly investigates any situation where there are concerns about a patient’s medical care.”
While the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is the highest of any in the developed world, the disparity for women of color is much starker.
Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 700 women die annually in the U.S. of childbirth-related issues, according to KTLA.
More recently, high-profile cases have surfaced that typify the type of danger that childbirth poses to African-American women. Both singer Beyoncé and tennis star Serena Williams suffered life-threatening complications around their pregnancy. Williams says she had to browbeat doctors to listen to her and discover the blood clot she had, as she recounted in a CNN opinion piece in 2018. She, like Beyoncé, had had an emergency C-section.
Johnson’s tribute to his wife, besides keeping her memory alive for their sons, is to draw further attention to the issue.
“I started to do research for myself. I realized, oh my gosh, we are in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis that isn’t just shameful for American standards. It is shameful on a global scale,” he said, according to KTLA. “If I can simply do something to ensure that I can send other mothers home with their precious babies, then it’s all worth it.”
Our hearts break for Charles, his sons, and their family.