A grieving husband in Los Angeles is suing the hospital where his wife died while giving birth.
According to ABC7, Charles Johnson's wife died three years ago during what was supposed to be a routine C-section birth. Johnson said he pleaded with the staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles as Kira struggled to recover after giving birth, but they told him she "is not a priority."
"I can see the Foley catheter coming from Kira's bedside turn pink with blood," Johnson told ABC7. "I just held her by her hand and said, 'Please look, my wife isn't doing well.' This woman looked me directly in my eye and said, 'Sir, your wife is not a priority right now.'"
Kira reportedly had 3 1/2 liters of blood in her abdomen after bleeding internally for almost 10 hours.
"Her heart stopped immediately," Johnson said.
Researchers said childbirth has become an increasingly concerning issue in recent years, particularly for Black women such as Kira.
"We do know there may be issues in terms of institutional racism. A well-educated African American woman with more than a high school education has a five-fold risk of death compared to a white woman with less than a high school education," Wanda Barfield, director of the Division of Reproductive Health at the CDC, told ABC7.
According to the CDC, about 700 women in the U.S. die every year because of pregnancy or delivery complications, but the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for Black women is 3 to 4 times higher than that of white women.
Researchers have also looked at several U.S. cities and noticed varying levels of racial disparities in maternal deaths across the country. In New York City, a 2017 report showed that Black women were 12 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.
The CDC said about 60% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable without a high cost, but the issue continues to become an increasing concern. Celebrities such as Serena Williams and Beyoncé have been working to raise awareness of the problem after going through their own struggles while giving birth.
"Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. And you can help make this a reality," Williams wrote in a CNN opinion article.
Johnson is also pushing for policy changes to help women giving birth.
"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," he said.
In an interview with 11 Alive, Johnson described his late wife as somebody who spoke five languages and was unstoppable.
“We walked in for what we expected to be the happiest day of our life. And we walked straight into a nightmare,” he said. “I sit awake at night 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.”
Johnson said Kira was beginning to tremble uncontrollably after giving birth but still didn't receive care.
"She's beginning to shake. She's beginning to be in increasingly more pain," he said. "She's becoming sensitive to the touch. There's still no CT scan."
When doctors eventually took Kira for an internal scan, they said she would be back in 15 minutes. But Johnson never saw his wife alive again. In a statement to CNN, Cedars-Sinai said the hospital "thoroughly investigates any situation where there are concerns about a patient's medical care."
Johnson is now raising his two sons by himself.
"There is a failure and disconnect from the people who are responsible for the lives of these precious women and babies to see them and value them in the same way they would their daughters, their mothers, their sisters," Johnson said.