Caribbean Times Op-ed: Black Maternal Health Week

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kaegan williams.

Black Maternal Health Week – I ALMOST DIDN’T MAKE IT

Written by Kaegan Mays-Williams, Candidate for State Senate, District 21

This week is Black Maternal Health Week, and it is personal for me. In the summer of 2017, on what remains the happiest and most traumatizing day of my life, I almost died after meeting my daughter for the first time post-C-section.

I’d had a healthy pregnancy, save for large fibroids growing near my uterus and the baby. I ate well, never missed a doctor’s appointment, took prenatal vitamins, and did everything the doctors recommended to ensure that my baby and I would remain safe and healthy.

However, on the day of my daughter’s birth, without alerting me in advance, one of the surgeons in the operating room removed one of my fibroids – a procedure I’d been warned is ill-advised during a C-section where there is already a lot of blood loss. That doctor’s reckless decision almost cost me my life.

For the next 4-to 5 hours, healthcare practitioners struggled to save my life with multiple blood transfusions. Although my daughter was born in the late morning, I did not get to hold her or even be in the same room for several hours. Though I’d had a scheduled C-section at 8 am, we could not go to the recovery room until 11 pm because the doctors kept me under observation.

Once we finally brought our baby home, I continued to feel shortness of breath and slight headaches. My mother was worried that I was showing blood clots, so I called my doctors, who were at a loss because their care for me essentially ended once the baby was born. I went to urgent care for a sonogram, and even though they did not find anything, I wore compression socks and continued to provide treatment for myself in case they had missed something. I am not a healthcare professional. I should not have to provide my treatment.

One of the leading pregnancy-related causes of death in New York City is hemorrhage or severe blood loss and embolism or blood clots. And though I was an otherwise healthy individual, I was almost a part of a 2017 statistic released by the Office of the NYC Public Advocate’s report “Equitable Pregnancy Outcomes for Black and Brown New Yorkers” because I’d experienced 2 out of 6 complications. We must do better. We CAN do better.

This week is Black Maternal Health Week, where the voices of Black mothers, women, and expectant persons are centered on amplifying the terrifying inequities in our healthcare system that lead us to be between 3-and 5 times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related causes than white women.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Health Department, NYC DOHMH) released a report just last year, which showed that in 2017, 52% of the pregnancy-related deaths were suffered by Black women, and 33% of the women who died were Brooklyn residents. This is personal for our community since Black women make up the majority of people in the District.

We need our medical health practitioners to listen to us, take our concerns seriously, and include us in conversations about our bodies before making potentially life-threatening decisions. When my daughter was born, a doctor took careless and unnecessary risks with my body, and I almost didn’t live to share my story.

This week, we need to amplify community organizing and community-led policy, research, and care solutions concerning Black maternal health.

I feel so strongly about fighting for maternal healthcare initiatives from the State government – because I’ve lived it, and I want to do everything I can to stop future mothers from going through the same horrifying experience.

I am running to be your next State Senator because our public health system cannot continue to ignore us after the baby is birthed. We need real policy solutions that include postpartum healthcare and enact legislation that would require health insurance plans to provide free coverage of midwifery and doula services to expectant persons at a liveable wage. No one is better equipped to do that than a mother. Our lives, and our kids’ lives, depend on it

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