I first heard about this as a teaser for the upcoming 10:00 news. They only said ‘large malpractice lawsuit settlement nets 4.6 million after mom dies after giving birth’, or some variation of that. I said to my husband “c-section!” Of course while he is used to the c-section talk and takes it very seriously, he really wanted to know why I was so sure. I said because women in the US don’t die from vaginal births anymore-that is so rare. They die from c-sections-they die from bleeding to death or from a blood clot (my statement wasn’t too scientific, so now that I look up the numbers, I see that hemorrhage is number one, though I can’t find it directly tied to c-sections).
When I watched it on the news they made no mention to the c-section. They only said she bled to death after the birth. I went to find it online and the Strib had a much more in depth article. Honestly, I was so shocked to hear that it was much more than a woman bleeding to death after a c-section. I was so shocked to read that a hospital would actually perform one when they didn’t even think they had blood on hand! In my mind, I immediately assumed it was because they view c-sections as so common and ordinary that they didn’t think they would need it?! I don’t know, I am at a loss. It is bad enough—the risks with having one’s labor induced, the risks of having a c-section, but honestly I never feared personally that there wouldn’t be blood on hand. I thought it was common knowledge that the blood loss from surgery is high, and the potential for blood loss postpartum, whether vaginal or surgical was high as well! Stunning. What a tragedy.
Unfortunately, the culture of c-sections is so accepted that there is no question of being induced at 41 weeks. Now, I am not saying I know everything—maybe she was showing signs of preeclampsia or the baby was stressed and the c-section was necessary, but I was induced at 41 weeks just for “post-dates,” and how many of us are there were induced at 40 or 41 weeks for no reason, or “post-dates?” This is so common that no one bats an eye at it. This woman did not have to die and the hospital certainly was negligent and deserves to pay that settlement, even more. But the fact is, we live in c-section culture and these death will continue to happen until the rate comes down. The fact is, this hospital was not safe to have a baby. How many others out there? Or is the medicalization of birth that is at fault?
I will end with talking about my own birth journey. With my first, I thought having a fancy OB would keep my baby and me safe. It never entered my mind that he has a different list of priorities than I. I was naïve, I know, but I really believed that I was safer with a trained OB and delivering in the biggest private maternity hospital in the state. It just didn’t dawn on me that overused technology is not a good thing in the case of normal, low risk birth. This boggled my brain. When I went to Bradley classes with my VBAC hopes when pregnant with my 2nd, I knew I needed to switch to a midwife (in a hospital setting), but still wasn’t sure about my body. I also was shocked but interested to learn that my instructor “caught babies” at home! Wow—I remember thinking how could this women know what to do in case something goes wrong? At home? This is nuts. Now fast forward to baby #3, and we are having him at home. And you know what? I feel safest there. I know that my midwives are better trained and have higher skills in vaginal birth and all its potentials for problems than most OB’s (who, in my opinion are one trick ponies as skilled surgeons). I know that should something catastrophic happen I am a few minutes from a hospital that can handle an emergency c-section (and I know I could get there in the same time they would prep me in the hospital), and I know that if I stall and just can’t finish at home we are blessed to have an OB here who believes in birth and will let me finish my labor without shame. This is the way it should be. Birth is as safe as life gets and midwives are incredibly skilled. I am so lucky to be able to have a baby where I feel safe, and know that if I need a c-section, it will be truly necessary. When I heard this story about this poor family, I thought, “and they say homebirth isn’t safe!” Hospitals have a whole set of problems that need to be fixed before they can start pointing fingers at homebirth. Finally, I will end with saying women matter! Our birth matters! The end does not justify the means, and often the means is killing us women. This needs to be talked about.
Mom to two boys-one by c-section due to failed induction and one by hospital VBAC.
Boy #3 due in January, planned homebirth
From the Star Tribune:
Malpractice lawsuit nets $4.6 million award
A woman bled to death after giving birth at a hospital in Wright County.
By SARAH LEMAGIE, Star Tribune
The family of a woman who bled to death after delivering her first child was awarded $4.6 million Thursday by a Wright County jury in a malpractice and wrongful-death suit brought against the hospital where she gave birth.
Claudia Calcagno of Albertville began hemorrhaging and died hours after her son was born on Jan. 18, 2008, at Monticello-Big Lake Community Hospital, now New River Medical Center. Her doctors were unable to perform surgery that could have saved her life because the hospital failed to provide enough blood for transfusion in time, even though it was "sitting right in their refrigerator," an attorney for Calcagno's family argued.
"Her doctors needed blood to save her life. It was as simple as that," said attorney Kathleen Flynn Peterson.
The jury's award isn't the largest ever seen in a Minnesota malpractice case, but multimillion-dollar verdicts against health-care providers are unusual, said Flynn Peterson.
In a statement issued Friday, the hospital declined to release expert-witness documents supporting its position, saying they contained private medical data. "Our thoughts and sympathy go out to the Calcagno family," the statement said. The hospital is considering an appeal.
Flynn Peterson said the hospital argued in court that Calcagno's doctors were negligent, and should have gone ahead with the surgery. On Friday, the hospital said that "clinical staff members can only act under the direction of a physician, and we believe [hospital] staff members acted according to the orders of the attending physicians."
Two doctors were named in the suit along with the hospital, but Flynn Peterson said it became clear to her before trial that they were not at fault.
The jury found that neither doctor was negligent. The award includes compensation to Claudia Calcagno's family for past and future economic loss, as well as the loss of her companionship.
For Claudia's husband, Bob, "not a day goes by I don't think about her," he said in an e-mail Friday. "To put it simply, I miss my wife."
Claudia was as an executive assistant for Catholic Health Initiatives, Flynn Peterson said. She and Bob met on the job in 1999: He worked for a company that installed furniture for her office. They began dating, and married in 2004.
"The day we found out we were pregnant I cried like a baby," Bob Calcagno said.
As Claudia's pregnancy developed, their excitement grew. She got the house ready for a baby, and "you just knew she was going to knock this whole mothering thing out of the park," he said.
Calcagno, 36, was 41 weeks pregnant when admitted to Monticello-Big Lake Community Hospital on Jan. 17, 2008, to have labor induced. Her labor stretched into the next day, and after she had pushed for two hours, her obstetrician ordered a caesarean section. At 6:50 p.m., she gave birth to a healthy son, Vico.
But mistakes that contributed to her death had already been made, Flynn Peterson argued. Court documents say that a routine order to type and screen Calcagno's blood put in before her C-section wasn't done until hours later. And following its own policy, the hospital did not stock blood of her type -- A negative -- falling short of accepted standards of practice, Flynn Peterson said.
At 8:50 p.m., nurses checking on Calcagno found that she was bleeding heavily. Her doctors were called, and a surgery team was paged.
A doctor who examined Calcagno ordered blood for her. The hospital lab sent the O negative blood, traditionally the universal donor type, it had in stock. A 911 call was also made to get blood from a hospital 12 miles away, but it's unclear when it arrived.
Calcagno could have received A or O positive blood that the hospital had in stock, but her doctors said they were never told it was available, Flynn Peterson said.
She was taken to the operating room for an exam under anesthesia and possible treatment, including surgery to remove her uterus. But her doctors decided against that.
According to documents, they were concerned that, given the hospital's resources, they wouldn't be able to control potential bleeding problems if they went ahead with surgery. They also felt they had stabilized Calcagno. So instead, they decided to transfer her to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. As a medical crew from North Memorial wheeled her to a helicopter, two more units of blood arrived and were sent with her.
During the postpartum hemorrhage, Calcagno lost at least 4,000 milliliters of blood. By the time she reached North Memorial, she was in critical condition, with dangerously low blood pressure. Despite treatment, including a blood transfusion, her heart stopped beating shortly after she arrived at the hospital. Doctors started an emergency hysterectomy, but despite efforts to revive her during surgery, she died.
With help from Vico's grandparents, Bob Calcagno is staying at home for his son's early childhood. The couple had planned to have one parent stay home for their son's first five years, and "he wants to keep that pledge to Claudia," Flynn Peterson said.
Bob Calcagno said Friday that no amount of money will bring his wife back, "but I take comfort knowing that our futures, especially Vico's, are financially secured."
Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016