Weeks before giving birth to her son, Amber Isaac, 26, of New York had a premonition that she would not survive the delivery. Just after midnight, on Tuesday, April 21, the premonition came true.
“She had mentioned to me that she feels like she’s not gonna make it,” her partner, Bruce McIntyre, 28, told THE CITY. “And I would try my best to cheer her up. She would tell her mom she’s really glad the baby is healthy, but she’s scared that she’s not gonna make it.”
The concerns surfaced after Isaac’s platelet levels began dropping in February, according to McIntyre. Issac, who had been seven months pregnant at the time and by March had been attending virtual prenatal meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “knew she needed to be seen,” McIntyre said.
On April 17, after follow-up calls with her doctors, Isaac was able to make an in-person visit — her first since the pandemic began. During the visit the couple learned her platelet count dropped yet again and she was admitted to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, New York.
It was then that Isaac posted her final tweet.
“Can’t wait to write a tell all about my experience during my last two trimesters dealing with incompetent doctors at Montefiore,” she wrote.
Three days later, doctors induced her labor. It was that day that Isaac was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a group of symptoms that can occur in pregnant women who have hemolysis — the breakdown of red blood cells — elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count.
When doctors turned to an emergency C-section to deliver the baby boy, Isaac would be put to sleep, one she would never wake from. The 26-year-old died without her partner at her side. McIntyre said he was barred from being present for her C-section because she was under the general anesthetic.
But from a nearby spot McIntyre said he could overhear the racket of staff rushing in and out of Isaac’s delivery room after a PA announcement urging the medical doctors to report there.
“As soon as they took the baby out, her heart stopped,” McIntyre told The CITY. “And she bled out. Her platelet levels were so low that her blood was like water, so nothing was clotting.”
According to New York health officials, Black women in the city are eight times more likely to die due to complications related to pregnancy than white women.
“We know one of the key drivers of racial disparities in maternal mortality is structural racism. Decades of inequitable distribution of resources across neighborhoods and unequal treatment within healthcare settings have resulted in racial differences in birth outcomes,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in July 2018 after the city launched an initiative to reduce maternal deaths and life-threatening complications in Black and Latino women.
On April 20, the day that Isaac’s son Elias was born, state officials announced their plan to create a maternity task force to provide an alternative to pregnant women set to deliver during the national crisis.
“This pandemic strained our hospital system in a way no one could have ever imagined,” Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement announcing the launch.
A GoFundMe has been created by Isaac’s family to benefit her newborn son and to pay for her funeral expenses.