Meghan (2004) – USA

Delayed treatment of incomplete miscarriage leads to dangerous blood transfusion

In 2004, Eagen-Torkko was about seven weeks pregnant when she had an incomplete miscarriage. She worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Providence Hospital in Everett, Washington (State) and her insurance covered her only at that hospital, a Catholic facility. As a nurse, Eagen-Torkko knew she needed an aspiration procedure to remove the remaining tissue from her uterus and stop her bleeding. But care providers at Providence were worried that her fetus might still have a heartbeat. For hours, they performed ultrasound after ultrasound, searching for a heartbeat that wasn’t there, afraid to get in trouble if they missed it. After about six hours, they finally performed an aspiration. During this ordeal, Eagen-Torkko lost enough blood to require a transfusion.

The consequences of this transfusion became apparent when Eagen-Torkko later got pregnant again. She had been transfused with blood containing an antigen called Kell. While she was Kell negative like most people, her ex-husband was Kell positive, as were her pregnancies. Because she was sensitized to Kell by the transfusion, her body produced antibodies that put her next pregnancy at risk of sudden fetal demise. Doctors told her that her fetus could die with no warning and no way to predict it. “It’s a very hard position to be put in knowing that your body could essentially kill your baby, which is what happens with Kell,” said Eagen-Torkko. She dissociated from the pregnancy, declining to buy anything for her daughter until she was about 30 weeks pregnant. While she had planned for a vaginal birth, when her daughter started showing signs of stress once she was far enough along to deliver, her Kell status made Eagen-Torkko more inclined to accept her doctor’s recommendation for a C-section, she said.

Eagen-Torkko said years later: «I don’t think people understand how gray this is and how everybody is cobbling things together sort of on the fly. I think we’re setting up this idea that there is some sort of a clear, bright line between life-threatening and non-life-threatening and it just doesn’t exist.”

Source: Rewire, Sep 25, 2019, by Amy Littlefield. “A Miscarrying Woman Nearly Died After a Catholic Hospital Sent Her Home Three Times”