The birth of his second son in April 2016 was supposed to be the happiest day of Charles Johnson’s life. Instead, he suffered an unbelievable tragedy. His wife Kira had a normal pregnancy but during her scheduled Cesarean section, Johnson noticed blood was seeping into her catheter.
“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,’” Johnson recalled to WGHP. “It wasn’t until 12.30 a.m. the next morning that they finally took the decision to take Kira back to surgery.”
Hospital staff eventually ordered a CT scan, along with testing and lab work. By the time they opened Kira’s body, her abdomen was filled with 3 ½ liters of blood. Ten hours after giving birth — on April 23 — Kira died from a blood hemorrhage.
Johnson never thought something like this would happen to his wife.
“We’re talking about a woman that spoke five languages fluently, who had her pilot’s license, who was an avid skydiver,” he told WebMD in January.
Now a single dad of two young sons, Johnson wants to help other families and hold medical professionals accountable. He’s suing Cedars-Sinai for Kira’s death. The hospital has not spoken publicly about the case due to privacy concerns.
“Cedars-Sinai thoroughly investigates any situation where there are concerns about a patient’s medical care,” the hospital said in a statement.
Johnson also founded 4Kira4Moms, an organization dedicated to protecting moms and their babies from birth complications.
“I started to do research for myself,” he said. “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.”
There are numbers to back up Johnson’s assessment. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics determined the national maternal mortality rate is 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, as reported by NBC News. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 700 women die giving birth every year. The United States has the worst mortality rates among developed countries. Black women are more likely than any other demographic to die while giving birth.
Black mothers account for 37.1 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births while white women and Latinas make up 14.7 and 11.8, respectively. Possible factors include systemic racism, insufficient access to prenatal care and increased risk for certain health conditions. This issue spans across education and income levels. A 2016 study from the Brookings Institution determined Black women with a master’s degree or higher are three to four times more likely to perish than white women with an eighth grade education, reports Good Morning America.
Johnson is working to ensure other families don’t have to experience his plight.
“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,” Johnson said.