"We're broken": Couple demands accountability after newborn dies following traumatic delivery

Mar 14 2022, 9:51 pm

A BC couple is demanding medical accountability after their infant son died following a traumatic birth last month.

Émilie Negahban says her delivery at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver was bungled, in part due to staff shortages, in an ordeal that left her with an infection and baby Nathaniel dead.

“We’re broken,” she told Daily Hive. “We wake up in the morning and we don’t know what to do with our day. We can’t leave the house because we’re scared of seeing another baby.”

pregnancy photoshoot

Émilie Negahban said her baby was healthy throughout her pregnancy. (Submitted)

Negahban and her partner, Robin Addison, went to Lions Gate Hospital on February 2 when her water broke, but staff said she wasn’t dilated enough yet and sent her home with painkillers.

The couple returned twice more, and on the third attempt insisted on staying. Negahban said she waited more than 36 hours to see a doctor.

The 31-year-old mother had cervical cancer in the past, and described her pregnancy with Nathaniel as a “miracle” given the scarring from her cancer-related surgeries. She was once told by doctors that she probably wouldn’t be able to conceive.

delivery

The couple at the beginning of the delivery (Submitted)

Negahban informed the doctor at LGH she was comfortable with a C-section — but she says the doctor insisted on a natural birth.

Negahban began to push, but said the baby couldn’t make it past her pubic bone. After more than three hours of trying, the doctor suggested using a vacuum. Negahban alleged the physician didn’t explain the risks or consequences of the procedure, but she trusted her anyway.

Staff attempted to vacuum Nathaniel out for 25 minutes, during which the vacuum popped off three times — the maximum number recommended for patient safety.

After that, Nathaniel had to be delivered by emergency C-section.

He was born at 8:45 pm, but Negahban said it took staff more than four hours to realize his brain was bleeding internally. He was rushed to BC Children’s Hospital, and died in his parents’ arms at 5 am.

Autopsy results indicate the baby had a heart attack during the stressful delivery, in addition to the brain bleed.

nathaniel

Baby Nathaniel died hours after he was born (Submitted)

“I think it should scare anyone who hears my story. Because you don’t go into the hospital, pregnant and ready to deliver, thinking that your child is going to be taken away because of a medical mistake,” Negahban said.

She believes hospital staff waited too long to induce her, and that a C-section should have been ordered earlier. She also believes the doctor, who only recently completed her residency training, tried too hard to vacuum Nathaniel out — resulting in the brain bleed.

One of the documented risks of vacuum-assisted vaginal births are brain injuries to the infant.

Negahban also doesn’t understand why it took staff hours to realize Nathaniel’s brain was bleeding.

“I truly believe my biggest mistake was trusting my doctor,” she said. “I’m so angry and frustrated because nobody is going to be held accountable for this.”

She’s approached multiple lawyers about launching a medical malpractice suit, but said none would take her case because it’s hard to sue hospitals for infant deaths because they’re not income-earners.

The doctor apologized to Negahban while she was at the hospital, but she doesn’t believe that’s enough to make up for her son’s death.

“My partner and I, we just feel completely empty. Like we have no purpose. Because our purpose was to be mom and dad.”

Negahban also developed a fever during the delivery, but said she was discharged without antibiotics. She ended up getting an infection in her kidneys and uterus, and was in and out of hospital for three more weeks treating it.

Vancouver Coastal Health reviewing baby’s death

Both Lions Gate Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital are managed by Vancouver Coastal Health. The regional authority told Daily Hive it’s conducting a comprehensive review of the “clinical event” that led to Nathaniel’s death.

“A loss of this nature is heartbreaking for the family and care providers. We are deeply saddened by this incident and share our deepest condolences with the affected family,” VCH said in a statement.

Negahban has also filed a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. The College told Daily Hive the complaint process is protected by privacy laws, and it wouldn’t comment until a decision is reached.

The College has several options for resolving complains, including an informal process involving interviews and education, formal consequences including reprimands and practice restrictions, and referring the case to the registrar to issue a citation against the physician and begin disciplinary proceedings.

Fundraiser started in memory of baby Nathaniel

Negahban and her partner remain on leave from work while she recovers physically and they both recover emotionally from the ordeal. The mother says she’ll never set foot in LGH again.

Friends have set up a GoFundMe to help the couple take off as much time as needed, pay for rehabilitation services, and cover legal fees for a potential suit in the future.

Nathaniel’s name means gift from God, and his parents hope their grief and anger over what happened can spark change in BC to provide better care for mothers and better medical malpractice protection for children.

“I did everything right,” Negahban said. “I followed every rule you’re supposed to, and my kid was taken away.”

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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