• Georgia leads country in deaths from pregnancy-related issues

    By: Lori Wilson

    Updated:

    Georgia leads the country in a pretty sobering statistic: More women die here as a result of pregnancy-related issues than in any other state. 

    But one man is working to change that in his home state, after his wife's death in California.

    Charles Johnson and his wife Kira, who both grew up in the metro Atlanta area, were thrilled to be expecting their second son Langston two years ago. 

    "We walked into Cedars Sinai on April 2016 on what we expected to be the happiest day of our lives and really walked into a nightmare," said Johnson.

    About an hour after Kira delivered their baby boy, Charles noticed blood flowing from her catheter. He alerted the staff, who said they would do some testing and a scan, but then hours passed.

    "I'm watching her condition deteriorate," said Johnson. "I'm becoming more and more alarmed. I'm asking where is the CT scan that was ordered four or five hours ago? At which point I'm told, well your wife just isn't a priority right now."

    It wasn't until after midnight, eight hours after Johnson alerted the staff to the bleeding that they took Kira back for surgery.


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    "He (the doctor) says to me, 'We're going to take her back in, I'm going to go in the same incision I made the C-section, find out what's going on, and she'll be back in 15 minutes.' That was the last time I saw Kira alive," said Johnson.

    When they took Kira back to surgery and they opened her up, there were 3.5 liters of blood in her abdomen. Doctors listed the cause of death as cardiac arrest.

    Shortly after her death, he moved back to Georgia to be near both of their families. He now spends his time advocating to improve maternal health both here and across the country.

    Other organizations in Georgia have the same mission.

    "This (quilt patch represents) is Kira Johnson," said midwife Corrinna Edwards of Bellies to Babies. "She was having a repeat C-section."

    Edwards carries with her a quilt made of patches that tell the story of mothers who have died from childbirth-related issues. A quilt that speaks for women who no longer have a voice. 

    "It's definitely a crisis," said Edwards. "There is no reason for women to be dying in 2018 from childbirth."

    But they are dying, and according to a new report by America's Health Rankings, more women are dying in Georgia from birth-related issues than anywhere else in the country.  

    "Women are dying mostly postpartum," said Edwards. "It's not even at the birth, it's after the birth. that's when Kira Johnson died, that's when Tanisha Malloy died.

    Edwards says research shows the maternal death rate is highest among women of color. Johnson says he doesn't want any families to go home without their mothers.

    Since he and his boys lost Kira, Johnson says he works hard to make sure his boys remember their mom.

    "We talk about mommy constantly if there's a song that comes on, we dance to Michael Jackson in the morning," said Johnson. "If we're eating one of Kira's favorite foods we talk about her."

    And as part of that remembrance, Johnson has become a bell ringer in political circles, advocating so that fewer women die as a result of child birth related issues.

    "My task and our creed is simple," said Johnson. "Wake up, make mommy proud, repeat, and that's how we approach every single day."

    Johnson is working to get legislation passed that would require states to create committees that study maternal mortality. He says we need to know exactly why mothers are dying to come up with solutions. He has also created an organization, 4 Kira, 4 Moms. If you would like information on how you can advocate for mothers, click here.

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