A Black New York City father is raising awareness on Black maternal health after the mother of his son dies after childbirth.
“Her last words to me were, all three of us are going home,” said Bruce McIntyre.
It’s been a little more than two years since Bruce McIntyre, 31, last saw his girlfriend Amber Rose Isaac alive.
“The 20th was when my son was born and of course, I wanted to separate his birth and her death and not have it on the same day,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre, a native of the Bronx in New York, is now raising his 2-year-old son, Elias as a single father, but he says the joys of parenting are often coupled with a feeling of what could have been had doctors and nurses who tended to Isaac cared for her better during her pregnancy.
“We found out we were having a baby on September 27, 2019, her platelet levels started to decrease and were in the 90s in December of 2019. If you’re platelet levels are at a 150, they need to be monitored. If they’re at 125, they need to be monitored and prepped for treatment. Hers were already in the 90s and they were acting like nothing was wrong with her,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre says throughout Isaac’s pregnancy the 26-year-old’s health deteriorated, and as she shared details with her OBGYN many of those concerns were dismissed.
“We’re voicing these concerns to the OB[GYN], and her OB[GYN] tells her, there are other pregnant women going through this right now, so why should you get to leave early, as if her health is not clearly deteriorating, so she’s clearly not paying attention to Amber and her symptoms,” McIntyre said.
In addition to her health concerns being dismissed, McIntyre says, hospital staff mismanaged Isaac’s documentation needed for medical leave and her bloodwork leading up to giving birth.
“They were losing her bloodwork, losing paperwork, we’re going in to get bloodwork done, they don’t know where it’s at, the OB[GYN] didn’t send it over, they’re going back and forth, we don’t have time for this,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre also claimed disparities in treatment along racial lines. “We weren’t understanding what is going on considering the fact there were white women who were due after Amber were getting early FMLA, getting early disability, who were able to stay home with their families, and we had no such luxury,” he said.
The hospital in question, Montefiore Medical Center, which McIntyre accused of improper treatment of Isaac, sent Atlanta Black Star a statement on the matter, which says, “Ninety-four percent of our deliveries are minority mothers, and Montefiore’s maternal mortality rate of 0.01% is lower than both New York City and national averages. Any maternal death is a tragedy. Our hearts go out to Ms. Isaac’s family, especially to her mother, our longtime colleague.”
McIntyre says he has pending litigation against the hospital.
Isaac was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually occurring during the later stages of pregnancy or soon after childbirth according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.
“White male doctor comes by a room full of Black folks, he runs to get a colleague to come back to break the news to us and it’s been a fight ever since then,” McIntyre said of the moment Isaac’s family learned she did not survive the pregnancy after giving childbirth.
McIntyre says he has spent the last two years advocating nonstop to raise awareness and get better protections in place so Black mothers in particular, can get better care early on in their pregnancy, and he has made medical malpractice insurance a focal point for his advocacy work.
“There’s no accountability for the doctors, or the hospital or anything,” McIntyre said.
A CDC report released in February found in 2020, 861 women died of maternal causes in the United States, and Black women died at 2.9 times the rate of white women while giving birth that year.
“We have to take this into our own hands, nobody is coming to save us. As patients, we have to advocate for our own health,” said Nikki Montgomery, a Cleveland-based patient advocate for Black maternal health.
Montgomery says expectant mothers should look out for red flags which often begin with the OBGYN and nursing staff.
“The red flags are when your provider doesn’t listen to you, when they don’t give you eye contact, when they don’t engage with you, to me it says, this is not a provider who does not looking at me as an individual and trying to meet my needs. A lot of times we have these spaces where there are Black doulas, and a lot of people look for Black doctors and it’s been proven to be safer for Black women in many instances, so we need to know that we have options,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery also recommends expectant mothers ask their doctors to document all of their concerns during appointments.
“One of the things we talk about in health care is, ‘stop the line,’ and stop the line means, everything stops until we answer these questions. A way a patient can do that is saying, I have a concern that needs to be addressed before we move on, come armed with your questions, come armed with your concerns and this is the kicker, if a doctor chooses not to investigate something further, say, I want you to document in your notes why you’re not sending me for testing, because then they have to create a record of that conversation and your concern and them ignoring your concern,” Montgomery said.
McIntyre’s advocacy efforts are also paying off. He, alongside other single Black fathers raising kids due to Black maternal mortality, are the focus of Hulu’s ‘Aftershock’ documentary. He also launched the Save A Rose Foundation named after Amber Rose Isaac, and its purpose is to eliminate systemic flaws within maternal health care. The foundation creates a network of brotherhood among fathers impacted by the Black maternal mortality rate, and it also provides pregnancy resources including doulas and midwives aimed at Black and brown women who may lack access to quality care.
“By creating access to midwifery and doula care, we have a scholarship program that offsets the costs of insurance premiums,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre hopes the work he is doing by raising awareness on Black maternal health helps improve the lives of other Black families before, during and after childbirth so they do not have to experience what he has dealt with, the joys of parenthood coupled with the loss of a life.
“Just not having her here and having her motherly warmth is tough,” the single father said.