It was 12:24 a.m.
Inside the delivery room, you’d never know it was dark outside.
The bright lights were pointed on her belly.
The overhead fluorescent lights illuminated the room.
There was a nurse with a surgical mask and face shield running around the room.
There was a stern-looking anesthesiologist sitting by the patient’s head adjusting dials and entering data into a computer.
The husband was sitting on the other side of his wife’s head.
In the middle of the room, on the surgical table was a woman about to give birth.
She’d been in labor all day.
This was her first baby.
She was excited.
Her husband was excited.
They read all the books on what to expect.
They heard stories from their friends and relatives about what to expect.
Now, here they were, in the middle of the operating room.
She didn’t expect to have a cesarean section.
She didn’t want a cesarean section.
She wanted a natural delivery.
A vaginal delivery.
She wanted a home delivery actually.
Her husband convinced her that was a bad idea.
She didn’t want an epidural to numb her labor pains.
Her obstetrician convinced her that was a bad idea.
“Why would you want to be in pain and uncomfortable when you can enjoy your delivery?”
The nurse said she had to prep her for the c-section.
She splashed brown liquid on her belly and then wiped it off.
The husband watched as the scrub nurse moved with precision, gathering instruments for the obstetrician.
From the time husband and wife entered the delivery room, the obstetrician was nowhere to be found.
Five minutes went by.
Ten minutes went by.
She wasn’t on the fetal monitor.
Nobody was monitoring her baby while she’s waiting.
Waiting to be prepped.
Waiting for the anesthesiologist.
Waiting for the obstetrician.
Waiting to start the surgery so she can meet her little one she’d been carrying for nine months.
Fifteen minutes go by.
She asked the nurse “Where’s my doctor?”
“He’ll be in momentarily,” she replied.
Twenty minutes have now gone by.
Still no sign of her doctor.
She’s getting anxious.
“Can you put me back on the monitor?” she asked the scrub nurse.
“The reason I was told I needed a c-section was because the baby was having a problem,” she explains to the nurse.
“Not to worry,” your baby’s fine, she says flippantly without answering her question directly.
Still lying on the table, waiting for her c-section.
Now the husband is getting worried.
“Where’s my wife’s obstetrician?” He demands from the nurse.
“I’ll check,” she says.
Five minutes later, the nurse returns.
“He’s on his way,” she says.
Ten minutes later, the obstetrician blows into the operating room with an assistant by his side.
“Ok, sorry I’m late. Let’s get this baby out,” he says with a smile.
No explanation of where he was.
No explanation about why the delivery wasn’t done earlier.
No discussion about her needing a prompt delivery because the baby was having a problem.
No discussion about why she wasn’t on the fetal monitor while waiting for her delivery.
The anesthesiologist goes to work and makes sure she doesn’t feel a thing.
The husband hears very little.
There’s little talk in the operating room.
The Ob is calling for instruments.
He’s calling for a hemostat.
He’s calling for a bovie.
He asks for two scalpels, one a few minutes after the first.
He quietly asks for retraction.
He raises his voice at his assistant.
He wants more retraction.
He can’t see where he’s cutting.
He asks the nurse to suction.
He looks at the tube on the wall that is suctioning out whatever the surgeon is holding it to.
It’s bright red liquid.
That doesn’t look right.
That doesn’t look normal.
He hears the obstetrician call for a senior resident.
There’s urgency in his voice.
“Go into the doctor’s lounge and get another attending in here stat!” he says urgently.
The Ob tells the anesthesiologist to hang two units immediately.
The husband happens to glance at his shoes and notices that blood is dripping on the floor from the middle of where his wife’s belly is.
He can’t see what’s going on since there’s a drape under her chin preventing him from seeing the surgery.
“Hey doc,” the husband says… “There’s blood dripping all over the floor. Is this something to be worried about?” the husband says while gripping his wife’s hand gently.
“Nothing to worry about,” says the obstetrician, as he keeps his head down in the surgical field.
Two minutes later, three more obstetricians blow into the operating room, fully gowned and gloved.
The husband hears “What’s going on?”
His wife’s obstetrician replies “She’s bleeding out and I can’t stop it. We’re not even down to baby yet,” he admits to his colleagues.
The husband glances at the clock on the wall.
He calculates in his head that the c-seciton was started twenty three minutes ago and the baby still has not been born.
“This can’t be good,” he thinks to himself.
Then he notices his wife start to shiver and shake.
He turns to the anesthesiologist sitting two feet away and mentions it to him.
“Not to worry. That’s normal,” he says.
The obstetrician yells out to the anesthesiologist again “Hang another two units now. Fast infusion!”
More blood is being suctioned out of the operative field.
More doctors and nurses come running into the room.
What started out as a sleepy, quiet room, is now bustling with activity and the husband is not pleased.
“Could someone please tell me what the hell is going on?” he blurts out to the entire room.
One of the other doctors who is now assisting the obstetrician says calmly, “Your wife had a complication. There were a couple of blood vessels where they shouldn’t have been and we’re going to stop the bleeding and get you a beautiful healthy baby very shortly.”
The doctors then return back to the surgery.
Fifteen minutes later, another doctor enters the operating room.
He’d been called in by a nurse.
“Ok, what’s the problem here? I was about to head out to the golf course and then I got paged in. Who needs an embolization?” the doctor says loudly.
“She’s bleeding from her iliac artery. I can’t clamp it. There’s too much bleeding. May have to cross-clamp the aorta in order to slow the bleeding,” the obstetrician says.
“Is the baby out yet?” the interventional radiologist asks.
“Not yet. Getting to it,” the obstetrician replies.
It takes another ten minutes to slow the bleeding enough for the interventional radiologist to embolize the bleeding artery. He then turns the surgery over to the obstetrician again who now, finally, delivers the baby.
By this time, another team of doctors have arrived in the c-section room.
There must be twelve doctors and four nurses in there.
This can’t be normal.
As the new team of doctors arrive, the anesthesiologist mutters “The cavalry has arrived,” just loud enough for the husband to hear. It’s a team of neonatologists who have been alerted to the likelihood that the baby is going to have a problem once born. They’re ready for whatever comes up.
The husband finally sees the obstetrician hold his baby up above his wife’s belly as he hands the baby off to a nurse.
The nurse immediately places him on a table in the corner and the four neonatologists begin attending to him.
There’s silence in the room.
Nobody is talking.
The baby isn’t crying.
The husband has a knot in his stomach.
The baby’s skin looked blue.
He looked back at his wife’s head and she had that unspoken look that said “How is the baby?”
He quietly whispered “He’s fine. The doctors are cleaning him up now.”
Two minutes go by.
Still no cry from their newborn baby.
The doctors in the corner are furiously working on the baby.
The husband tries to stand up to get a better view of what they’re doing.
He sees one doctor trying to put a device down the baby’s throat.
He sees a nurse draw blood from his baby’s foot.
He then glances at the operative field, over the curtain.
What he sees makes him sick and lightheaded.
He quickly sits down and begins hyperventilating.
He doesn’t comprehend what he just saw.
He saw his wife’s entire belly open.
He saw her intestines.
He saw lots of blood in the operative field.
He saw all the surgeons cutting and digging in her abdomen.
“What are you doing to her?” he yells out to no one in particular.
“What is going on with my baby?” he yells to the doctors in the corner.
They all glance up for a moment over to where the husband is sitting.
Then they all return back to what they were doing.
The obstetrician tells him “Your wife had so much bleeding that we couldn’t control, we had to remove her uterus otherwise she was going to die. We had to do a hysterectomy to save her life,” he says with certainty.
He doesn’t understand the significance of that comment at that moment.
That comment will come back to haunt him in the future.
“What’s going on with my baby?” he demands to know.
“The baby is having some breathing problems and we needed to put a tube down his throat to help him breathe,” one doctor says.
The husband looks at the clock on the wall.
He again does some mental calculations and realizes his wife has now been in this operating room for almost three hours.
“How much longer?” he asks the surgeons.
“Another hour or two,” one of them says.
“How’s the baby?” he asks.
“We’re going to take him to neonatal intensive care unit, the NICU, where we can monitor him and give him the best care,” he’s told.
Two hours later, the surgeons finish up.
The husband follows his wife and three doctors as she’s wheeled into the recovery room.
From there, she’s wheeled into the ICU.
A half hour later, one of the senior obstetricians finds the husband and motions to talk to him outside.
The husband follows him out.
“I’m Dr. Dopplefart,” he says. “I’m the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology here at this hospital. I asked your wife’s obstetrician to join us and he’ll be here in a few minutes…”
Without pausing, he continues…
“Your wife almost died in there,” pointing to the operating room down the hall.
“A major blood vessel was accidentally cut and the obstetrician had a very tough time slowing the bleeding down. The problem was that this was in an area where this artery is not usually found and it was hit before getting down to the uterus where the baby was. The bleeding had to be addressed first before the baby could be delivered.”
“She lost a lot of blood. We had to give her ten units of blood. That’s a lot. We did everything we could to stop the bleeding. We called in a specialist to try and close off that artery. That didn’t work. We cross clamped the largest artery in her body. That didn’t work. Our only option at that point was to remove her uterus…perform a hysterectomy. That worked to stop the bleeding.”
“What does that mean?” the husband asked.
The Chief of Obstetrics said sadly “It means she can no longer have any children. I’m sorry.”
The husband was devastated.
He didn’t know what to say.
“And what about my newborn baby? How is he doing?” the husband asks.
The Chief tells him.
“Not well. It looks like there was a significant lack of oxygen during the delivery. He had seizures once he was in the NICU. He’s on 100% oxygen and we think there’s brain damage. The neonatologists told me that his Apgar scores were 0, 1 and 1.”
“What the hell does that mean?” the husband asks as if it’s Greek.
“It means your baby is very sick,” he tells him.
Just then, his wife’s obstetrician walks down the hall toward both of them.
“I’m so sorry,” he tells the husband.
“I did everything possible to save her uterus. I couldn’t stop the bleeding. The artery involved is a major artery and we gave her a lot of blood to transfuse her since she was losing so much blood during the operation.”
“How will she be after she recuperates?” the husband asks.
“She’ll be fine, but as I’m sure the Chief told you, she won’t be able to have any more children.
“How did this happen? Why did it take so long for you to come into the delivery room to start the c-section? Why didn’t you know that this could happen? What did you do?” the husband begins to wail in the middle of the hospital hallway.
They wait a few moments for the husband to compose himself.
The Chief turns to the husband and asks “What did you mean when you said it took him, pointing to his wife’s obstetrician, so long to come into the delivery room?”
“Dr. Dogoody here, pointing to his wife’s obstetrician, told my wife while she was in labor that the baby was having a problem and would need an immediate cesarean section. He then arranged for my wife to be taken back to the operating room. We then waited in the operating room by ourselves, except for a nurse and then an anesthesiologist for almost an hour before he came into the room with an assistant.”
The Chief turns to the obstetrician and says “Is this true?”
“I don’t know if it was an hour. Maybe 40 or 45 minutes,” he responds.
“That’s not true. I was watching the clock wondering where you were. I asked the nurse three times where you were since you said she needed to be delivered immediately and by the time you walked in, I saw on the clock that it was an hour from the time we entered the operating room until you came in.”
The Chief gave the obstetrician a look that said “I want to talk to you later about that.”
While I write part 2 of this story, I invite you to watch the quick video below to learn more about how these medical malpractice cases work in New York...