A young mom passed away after doctors failed to tend to her post-childbirth complications. Despite Charles Jonhson's requests for his wife, Kira Johnson, to be seen as she struggled to recover from giving birth to the couple's second son in 2016, doctors waited seven hours to conduct a CT scan. By then, it was too late.
In a talk with 11 Alive, Charles described his late wife, who spoke five languages, as unstoppable. As unstoppable as she was, it was only right that he would notice when something wasn't quite right with his outgoing wife after she gave birth on April 12, 2016. His inspection led him to find blood in Kira’s catheter. After alerting nurses and doctors, he said the staff ordered a CT scan.
"That was supposed to be performed STAT," Charles said. "In my mind, I'm thinking, 'That means immediately.'"
Despite repeatedly asking for help, it took the doctors seven hours to see Kira.
“She's beginning to tremble uncontrollably," Charles said. "She's beginning to shake. She's beginning to be in increasingly more pain. She's becoming sensitive to the touch. There's still no CT scan."
When doctors finally came to get her for an internal scan, they assured that she would be back in 15 minutes. However, that'd be Charles last time seeing his wife alive.
Doctors found three liters of blood in Kira’s stomach. Her heart stopped immediately. She died from a hemorrhage nearly 12 hours after giving birth.
“We walked in for what we expected to be the happiest day of our life. And we walked straight into a nightmare,” Charles said describing the tragic situation. “I sit awake at nights thinking maybe I should have grabbed somebody by the collar; maybe I should’ve turned a table over, would that have made a difference? Even two years later, I still can't make sense of it in my mind.”
But Kira's story is not an isolated incident. Pregnancy-related deaths continue to rise in the United States with Black women being impacted the most by maternal mortality. For every 100,000 births in the U.S., 26 women die. According to the Nine Maternal Mortality Review Committee, a minimum of 700 women die in the U.S. every year from pregnancy-related causes.
Even a superstar like Serena Williams has felt the effects of doctors not listening to Black women. Williams, who has a medical history of pulmonary embolism — a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by blood clots, was well aware of her symptoms.
"So, when I fell short of breath, I didn't wait a second to alert the nurses," Wiliams said; however, the nurses didn't listen. Because she knew what to expect, she told doctors that she needed a "CT scan and a heparin drip." A slew of complications followed in the days to come, but her assertiveness saved her life. Still, even she wonders what would have happened if she wasn't Serena Williams.
Charles' mother is Judge Glenda Hatchett, best known for her nationally syndicated reality court TV show Judge Hatchett. She was left devastated by the news of her daughter-in-law's passing.
"She was so excited that Langston was coming. She should be here," Hatchett said.
Now, Charles and his two boys, Charles Johnson V and Langston, will have to go on without Kira when it could have all been prevented by listening to a Black woman when she says she's hurting.
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