Attention OBGYN doctors: we need you to listen to Black women's health complaints!
Black women should not be dying or denied proper care in a timely matter. Kira Johnson should still be here today, but because no one listened in a timely matter, her life was cut short. Serena Williams was delayed proper care after notifying doctors of her health problem after labor. It’s 2018, but Black maternal mortality rates are three times more than a white woman. Why? As a Black woman, post pregnancy should not be a possible death sentence. Motherhood brings an unbreakable bond, but with doctors not listening to Black women, mortality rates are increasing.
Last year, I delivered my second son on November 27, 2017. After delivery, I knew something was not right. After 31 years, I knew my body better than any doctor, but they just said I developed post preeclampsia. Deep down, though, I knew something else was wrong. I had preeclampsia with my first son, so I was already high risk throughout my whole second pregnancy.
Maybe doctors need to start listening more to their patients than to a machine. If they can’t detect it on their monitors, those machines are worthless.
On November 29, I was discharged — even though I knew something was wrong. The nurse said if I felt any pain, call the doctor to make sure I'm not having seizures or any other complications. I was literally home for a day before returning to the hospital with pain. On December 2, I returned to the hospital with my mother instead of fiancé, because he was home watching our two-year-old and newborn son. I felt discomfort and agony in my body, and both of my legs were swollen like water balloons waiting to pop.
At the hospital in the emergency room, I did several exams and they also took blood. The resident doctor came back and said everything was normal. Was he f**king serious? I was in pain and I knew something was wrong, but it seemed my words had no value, and my life had no meaning. I simply could not believe I was going to be discharged. I kept telling myself, “I know I’m not crazy, something is wrong. Please find it before letting me go home.”
Everything changed after a high-risk OBGYN doctor looked at my blood work. I soon had an array of residents around me asking questions. They told me my blood work showed something was wrong, and admitted me back to the maternity ward. I just kept saying, "Yes, I’m not crazy."
It felt like time was moving in slow motion because I entered the ER at 6 a.m., and it was now 6 p.m. — a full 12 hours later.
Why am I waiting when we know there’s a problem? As my mom stated, “You’re not an emergency because you're not dying.” But I am an emergency because I'm a person who is sick and asking for help. I should not be dying, or near death, for you to not respond to me in an urgent manner.
I was in the hospital for five days after that day. The first night I was admitted, I had a high fever above 105 and my pressure was through the roof. What if they sent me home before getting back my blood work? Would I be waiting in the ER as my condition got worse? Why did I get discharged when I said something was wrong the first time?
I kept thinking about my two sons at home. In my mind, I pictured my newborn that I should be holding right now. How simple everything could have been gone if my initial complaint was taken seriously. I was not just admitted for a one-night stay, but for five days because my body got worse before it got better. It felt like I was never going to leave. I was so happy when my newborn was able to stay with me in the hospital, and my two-year-old came to visit.
I am so thankful for the doctor who noticed my blood work before I was discharged. My story should be every Black women’s story, one of a doctor finally listening to them and not delaying their urgency.
New Black moms’ lives have value. Instead of ignoring our complaints, please start to listen. We have a serious issue in America, and pretending that maternal mortality rate among Black women is not a problem can no longer be acceptable. As a Black community, we must refuse to hear another story of a Black woman dying after childbirth because doctors refuse to listen to their complaints.