Atlanta, GA – (CNN) A stunning new report finds that American women are dying in childbirth at alarming rates.
The U.S. is the only developed country with a rising death rate for pregnant or new mothers. And for African-American women, the risk of death is higher.
CNN’s Robyn Curnow has more.
Little boys playing, watched over by a mom they are too young to remember….
Kira Johnson’s husband, Charles… hasn’t stopped remembering. He is still grieving… still angry.. from that night in the hospital.
Charles Johnson, (Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “I can see the Foley catheter coming from Kira’s bedside turn pink with blood.”
He says doctors told them now 3-year-old Langston’s birth would be a routine Cesarean section.
Charles Johnson, (Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “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. It wasn’t until 12.30 a.m. the next morning that they finally took the decision to take Kira back to surgery.”
As critical minutes turned into hours, Johnson says he was continually ignored by staff at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles… As Kira’s health continued to suffer…
Charles Johnson, (Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “When they took Kira back into surgery and he opened her up she had 3 and a half liters of blood in her abdomen from where she’d been allowed to bleed internally for almost ten hours. And, her heart stopped immediately.”
Johnson is suing the hospital for the loss of his wife.. and with the case pending, Cedars Sinai told CNN in a statement that they could not respond directly because of privacy laws, but that “Cedars-Sinai thoroughly investigates any situation where there are concerns about a patient’s medical care.”
Kira was a successful entrepreneur who spoke five languages. This video she recorded teaching her firstborn son to speak Mandarin.
This was a woman who could fly planes and skydive- deemed invincible to her family.. which is why her death is so much harder to understand.
Charles Johnson,(Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “I started to do research for myself. I realized, oh my gosh, we are in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis that isn’t just shameful for American standards. It is shameful on a global scale.”
The Charity- every mother counts which was founded by supermodel Christy Turlington, works across the world on maternal health. But also in the U.S., because America is the only developed country with a rising death rate for pregnant or new mothers.
Approximately 700 women in the U.S. die each year.
Globally, the comparison is stark, more mothers die in childbirth in America than they do in Iran, Turkey or Bosnia Herzegovina even Kazakhstan.
All have lower maternal death rates.
Lynsey Addario is a Pulitzer Prize-Winning war photographer who has documented the deaths of women in childbirth around the world in the same way she tackles a war zone.
Lynsey Addario (War Photographer) “It’s almost more heartbreaking because I think when I go to a war I kind of know what to expect.”
What she did not expect was to find that her own birthplace, America was failing pregnant women in some of the same ways that much less developed countries fail their mothers.
Lynsey Addario, (War Photographer) “When I go to the United States, I see you know, these little scenes of heartbreak, I just can’t believe they are happening in my own country. It’s almost harder.”
‘Every Mother Counts’ says many of their deaths are because of unequal healthcare systems and systemic racism.
Public health experts also warn this crisis is not just affecting poor or sick moms but also healthy college-educated African-American women.
Wander Barfield, (Director of Division of Reproductive Health at CDC) “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 high school education.”
Charles Johnston, (Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “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.”
Now part of an unnecessarily large Fraternity of Americans who have lost partners in childbirth, Charles is pushing for policy changes, raising awareness and trying to hold doctors and hospitals accountable.
Charles Johnson, (Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “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.”
And he’s raising his sons, teaching them about their mother..
Charles Johnson, (Wife Kira died during Cesarean section) “What I try and do is wake up every day and make mommy proud.”
ROBYN CURNOW CNN ATLANTA.