0 to 2 in 9 months! Wow! We were on cloud nine! It had been 8 LONG years since we began to try to conceive. After many, many tears, a laparoscopy, several IUI’s, fertility drugs, daily fertility shots, and finally the IVF, we were pregnant…and with twins! Along with the incredible news, our lives were turning upside down. We were being transferred from the East Coast to the West Coast and would have no family around for three years! BUT…we didn’t care, we had each other and we were pregnant…and with twins!!!
The drive cross country with my mother was only the beginning of a very difficult pregnancy. After stopping at every truck stop along the way, we finally reached California. I was losing weight and couldn’t keep anything down. It was over 28 weeks before I literally got up off the bathroom floor where I had spent most of my pregnancy; even while sleeping. BUT, I was determined to have our babies and did everything I could to accomplish this goal. Even with the thought of losing everything I ate, I continued to force feed myself, praying that they would get some nutrition before I lost the rest. What time I wasn’t laying in the bathroom, I spent in front of the TV watching all the wonderful baby stories on Lifetime TV! I wouldn’t miss an episode and enjoyed rerun after rerun; especially the twin specials. All the episodes had happy endings and I knew we were going to also. I prayed every day for two healthy happy babies.
We were new in town. My husband’s office was expecting 8 babies that year with ours making 10. We were having the only set of twins! With plenty of people to ask, we quickly made an appointment with a local OB/Gyn. A Marcus Welby type. A one man show! He was such a nice guy the first time we met him and we felt safe because everyone was using him (he even joked that he had about 4 to 5 sets of twins going on at the same time!).
My appointments couldn’t come fast enough! I had to make sure that every pain and discomfort I was having was being heard. With every complaint, the “group” office response was “IT’S NORMAL and because you are having twins, it’s only going to get worse!” Just what I wanted to hear! These babies were our life, they meant the world to us and I could go through anything to have them!
It was near the end of the pregnancy when we began to REALLY question “IT’S NORMAL.” We had begun reading books and had talked briefly with another patient having twins. She was being seen weekly and not having quite the difficulty I was having. We asked and were given the response, “No, you are right on track and your appointment schedule is fine.” Never mind that I continued to get sick at the appointments and couldn’t lay on my back for fainting and passing out during the ultrasounds, etc.! We just had to trust them – they were the experts! Ultrasounds were very few and far between. “Sex checks” are what they called the many small ultrasounds that we continued to get. During these, they would continue to check for the sex of the babies. Our son was very obvious and our daughter waited until the last month to show us that she was a girl.
During these sex checks, nothing pointed to a problem. Then, at 33 weeks, I asked the doctor (one time out of the three times we saw him the entire pregnancy) when another ultrasound would be done. It was now June and I hadn’t had a real ultrasound done since April and that one was never completed because I nearly fainted. I asked him, “Are they monitoring the sizes of each baby?!” I had been given a pregnancy book regarding twins and was getting concerned about the many possibilities of twin complications. The doctor replied “Oh, we haven’t done that?” It was then scheduled for the NEXT appointment in two weeks which would have been 35 weeks into the pregnancy!
The entire pregnancy, the doctor just kept saying, ” Just get to 34 weeks and I will take them if they want to be delivered!” That was my GOAL! At 34 weeks, I began to have a brown discharge and came in for a check up. And guess what they said…yes that’s right, “it’s normal.” They sent me home to relax and assured us everything was okay. Not being pregnant before and no family and friends to rely on, we trusted them with everything we had! The ultrasound was still scheduled for my next appointment, at 35 weeks.
It was the absolute best ultrasound that we could have hoped for. We were told that EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT! Our daughter was a pound larger than our son and they both were to be around5 to 5-1/2 pounds each! Fluids looked good! We were told, “any time now!” We were unbelievably relieved. The end of our long hard 9 months was finally here and our babies were perfect!
Two days later I was admitted in the hospital overnight because I felt that I was going into labor. All night long the nurse had difficulty monitoring both babies; the monitors kept slipping. After finding both heartbeats on an ultrasound, she reassured us everything was okay and stopped monitoring the babies.
The next morning came with such confusion and chaos. After the nursing supervisor had trouble monitoring the babies, she called for an ultrasound specialist to come in with his equipment.
At this point we were still being told everything was okay. I was lying on the bed with the nurse beside me, my husband next to me and the ultrasound specialist speaks up and says, “You can’t find a heartbeat because there isn’t one.” Those words still echo in my head.
Minutes later, I was rushed into delivery, and had a c-section. Our daughter, Brittany had already passed away and there was much concern for our son. I remember lying on the bed hysterically crying and in such disbelief of what they were saying. I could see people around me preparing me for surgery and talking to me but I couldn’t hear anything but mumbling. It was almost as if I wasn’t there. My world had shattered, I was so deeply lost in the pain of losing my daughter.
During the delivery, I remember continuing to plead with the anesthesiologist, not to put me to sleep. He kept advising me to let him but I wanted to see my babies. I saw them place a blanket with my silent precious daughter in it into an isolette across the room beside me. They had covered her up completely so that I couldn’t see her, then everything after that was a blur. I don’t remember the sounds of my son or even his birth. I remember struggling to breathe and the anesthesiologist telling me to relax. He put me to sleep anyway!
The next thing I remember was that I was in my room and the on-call OB/Gyn who delivered our twins came to my room, looked at me and said, “I don’t know what happened” and walked away.
I never got an answer from anyone. The nurse that was on duty that night would come and try to make me feel better by telling me personal stories or that my daughter was in a better place. When I asked, she just said that my doctor would discuss it with me when he came back off of vacation.
I don’t remember much of my hospital stay, only a few things. I remember just lying there so still with tears just streaming all day and all night! I couldn’t get angry, I didn’t demand answers, I just laid there, it was as if I weren’t there, I was in a bad dream and just waited to wake up! The nurses were going in and out with their heads down. I remember just one look at my food would tear my heart out! I had tried to eat for 9 months for our babies and it didn’t help! I just cried through every meal! I also remember one of the nurses coming in to ask me to pick a mortuary for Brittany to be picked up. I told her, I didn’t know, my husband was trying to find one; we were new in town. She proceeded to tell me just to pick one out of the phone book.
A couple of days went by, I think, and it was time to hold our daughter. The nurse gave her to me first and walked out of the room. I was in such shock, pain and crying so hysterically, I couldn’t see her face through the tears. I just remember rubbing her hand over and over again until my husband told me to stop because her skin was deteriorating so rapidly. To this day, I don’t remember what I said to her. I don’t even remember if I told her how much I loved and wanted her. My husband assures me that I told her everything. That day haunts me so badly over and over again. At night and sometimes when I’m alone, I just have reruns over and over again in my head. My time with her was so brief that all I want to do is hold her again, look at her and tell her how much I love her! I wish that I could start all over again; the pregnancy was nothing compared to losing her.
A couple of days before we left the hospital, the neonatalogist came in to see us and expressed his sorrow and shared a familiar story of his own. His face was full of surprise when we still didn’t know what had happened to Brittany. He just remarked that we needed to review our files. We were so confused and had so many questions. My husband called his cousin, an attorney, whom he told the story to. Since the circumstances didn’t sound right to him, he advised us to get copies and have the autopsy done.
The go-ahead for the autopsy was one of the toughest decisions we had ever had to make. I couldn’t stand the thought of her being put through an autopsy and being cut. To me, she might have been suffering so much, possibly for so long, that a part of me just wanted her to rest.
We decided to put Brittany through it because maybe it would give us the answers we were looking for. We just told ourselves over and over that it wasn’t Brittany, it was her precious body and nothing could hurt her, she was already in heaven.
I then went home with one baby. A feeling that was so incredibly painful, there are no words to describe how I felt and still feel today. As I passed people in the hall, everyone smiled, but I was fighting back the tears. I cried all the way home.
Two days later, Brandon was still not eating and was admitted for seven days to a closer hospital. We and the nurses still think that, this was his way of grieving for his sister. They also continued to make comments that this shouldn’t have happened and Brandon should have never even been let out of the hospital that early.
With all these comments starting to add up, my husband began retaining copies of my records from both the doctor and the hospital.
After receiving the copies of the medical records, we tried to read and understand all the notes, but it was so difficult and the vocabulary was way out of our league. The autopsy report stated that she had died three to fours days prior to delivery and died of IUGR, Intrauterine Growth Retardation. To me, it sounded like just another word for TTTS. How could this be? She was alive on the ultrasound two days prior to delivery?
My prenatal chart in the hospital record said that during my last ultrasound the nurse had measured one twin to be 10 weeks smaller than the other, but never told us.
As we looked further into the doctor’s copy of the prenatal chart and compared it to the one that had been sent to the hospital the day of the delivery, we noticed that several entries had been made in addition to the ten-week size difference notation. The additional entries were all backdated on the day of the ultrasound, but had been added after delivery. The notes read…”IUGR suspected in one twin, repeat ultrasound in two weeks (37 weeks) and patient reports lots of fetal movement” – a total lie. We had been telling them for three months that Brittany moved less than Brandon and they of course, said, “That’s normal, one twin is always more active than the other.” It was becoming more and more obvious that the nurse was trying to cover up something.
I then pulled out the video in hopes to see her alive on that last ultrasound, the one that the autopsy said that she couldn’t have been alive on. I was desperate to see her move again. Devastating to me, the ultrasound was blank! The nurse had forgotten to press the record button.
It was then so obvious that the nurse had seen the problem, and because the doctor was on vacation, she did nothing about it. She blew it off! That one decision changed our lives forever. My records had been altered. We had the before and after copies right there in our hands! By the grace of God we were able to get the hospital record in time, before the alterations had been put on it as well. This began part two of our nightmare!
WE WON – BUT LOST HALF OF EVERYTHING!
We began seeking legal advice. I talked to several people on the internet, and asked for advice. We then went to several attorneys, but ended up with one three hours away. Everyone knew there was a case and wanted the case until they discovered who the doctor was!
It was NEVER a difficult decision for us to begin legal procedures. Anger and hurt drove us for most of the case. For us, there was no reason for this to have happened. We believed, and still believe, our precious daughter should and could have been here today. The decision made by one nurse to blow off an ultrasound reading changed our lives forever.
There were so many reasons why we proceeded with the case. We wanted the whole world to know what happened to our little girl and wanted to stop this from ever happening again. We wanted other first time parents to ask more questions and not settle for “it’s normal.” We knew we didn’t have all the answers we needed to go on with our lives and most importantly, we didn’t have all the right answers for Brandon when he would ask, one day. What would we tell him? Would he have survivor’s guilt? At this point, we were sure, it wasn’t his fault and we needed to prove it. So, to us, there was no choice. We had to do something, we had to get justice for Brittany and for Brandon.
Even as each piece of evidence broke our hearts further in two, we proceeded. Days soon turned into weeks, which turned into months and then a year passed. With all the legal paperwork and timelines, it seemed like forever before our case even got started!
Our case was considered a malpractice case. Had Brittany taken one breath of air, it would have been a wrongful death suit which would have made the case extremely different. For example, in California, a malpractice case has a maximum amount which can be awarded and a wrongful death suit has no maximum amount. There were so many restrictions on our case. We began to feel as if the laws were written by physicians.
It was a tough year; waiting for the attorney to call, trying not to call him every day and get updates, trying to put out lives somewhat back in order, being so grateful for Brandon and at the same time having so much pain for losing Brittany. Our life was indeed on a roller coaster. Our emotions were so high at times and then would hit rock bottom and beyond. At times, I wondered how I would make it through a case.
We had to answer countless pages of questions regarding our personal life, which we felt had nothing to do with losing our daughter! For example, how many family vacations have you had since you were married and what did you do on those family vacations! After a while we stopped asking, “What the hell do they want to know this for?” and just answered them. We had nothing to hide and we were NOT going to let them change our mind with going through this because of hours of paperwork!
Their biggest defense was that the autopsy report stated that Brittany had passed away three to four days prior to delivery. If that were the case, to them, there was no case. I remember thinking how can they say that, this was our daughter. How could an attorney turn off his feelings when there was a defenseless innocent life involved. The case only got harder. To prove that she was still alive at the time of the ultrasound, and to narrow a time of her death, another autopsy was scheduled. Brittany’s tissues were still on file at the hospital. Because of the three-hour distance, we were asked to pick up the tissues and send them to our attorney. I’ll never forget that day! I took Brandon and went to the hospital after days of calling (because at one point, her tissues had been misplaced…how ironic!) to pick up the tissues. I could barely hold them from shaking! I went to my car and held them close to my heart and cried and cried! It was the only thing I had left of her. The hospital never bothered to give us anything that belonged to her and we didn’t know to ask until it was way too late! Then I had to put the tissues in a box and send them Federal Express! There are no words to describe how I felt!
After the tissues were further analyzed, we discovered that she had died approximately four hours before delivery!!!!!! In the hospital with no monitors!!! We were devastated to find out that we were four hours too late to save our daughter! We were thankful for the second set of tissue tests and for this information. I had spent months asking myself and trying to remember every pain I had to try and figure out when she passed away! Now we finally knew. Had it not been for this case, we would have never known and I would have to this day, asked when and why didn’t I feel anything? So even though the case was getting unbearable at times, we were getting the answers we desperately needed. Now to us, the only question was WHY did the nurse do nothing that day if she knew there was a problem!
Finally it was time to tell our story to the other side and hear theirs. Their depositions (nurse and doctor) were repeatedly scheduled and rescheduled. Ours ended up being first. We (my husband and I) were scheduled for the same day. Didn’t happen! I was first and took the entire day! We briefly discussed (my husband and I) what we would say at the deposition but had no idea what was in store for us! I was made to go over every single appointment, date, time, conversation, event, etc. – an unbelievable amount of questions. They tried several times to screw me up, but it couldn’t happen. My attorney never once said anything during the entire deposition. He was dumbfounded with my memory. Those days and memories will never leave me. It’s a constant rerun with me and I know that everything I said was right and the truth. I didn’t worry because there was nothing made up. I barely got through some of the questions.
My husband and I went to lunch together to try and gather my emotions and thoughts. I remember going over the appointments with him and as soon as he would tell me something and then turn around and ask me the answer again, it went right out of my head. I couldn’t retain anything at lunch, although when I got back into the room to finish the depo, all the memories came again. At the end of the day, eight to nine hours later, I remember looking at the attorney across from me and I couldn’t even see his face. My eyes were blurry and my head felt as if it were going to explode like my heart. I remember my husband helping me out of the chair and I just broke down crying. The day, which had begun with us having to stop along the road for me to be sick, was finally over. All I wanted to do was go home and hold Brandon. He was with my mother-in-law. We never ever left him with anyone and we needed to get home.
My husband’s depo would be just as difficult but one I didn’t attend, by the advice of my husband and our attorney. Brandon and I spent the day waiting for him to finish. His didn’t turn out to be an all-day thing. We believe the opposing attorney had had enough. I remember in my depos, he would often shake his head in disbelief when I went over the appointments or comments or things that had not been done during my prenatal care.
Then, it was time for the nurse and the doctor to have their depositions. The doctor went first. He admitted that had he been there, my daughter would have been delivered within one hour of the ultrasound! I don’t know how to live with this comment, but we do know now that we were right – she possibly could be here today, or at least we could have held her, talked to her and said goodbye! He also stated how sorry he was that this had happened and that he never knew anything until it was over. That may be true; however, I feel that he should have reviewed his patients’ charts on a daily basis even though he may have not been the one seeing them that day to make sure that his PA’s were given the appropriate care. I still wanted him to pay. I wanted him and the nurse to remember Brittany for the rest of their life!
I may have wanted this and still want this more than anything, but I doubt that it is even happening! The nurse…a different story. She came into her depo with a whole different attitude…cold as ice. The night before, her attorney had contacted ours and told ours that it would be better if we didn’t show up at her depo because she would break down and it was hard for her to talk about the case. Tough! My husband chose to go anyway. Halfway there, our attorney called again and said that he could come but couldn’t say anything or even look in her direction! How could my husband sit there and hear her responses with no emotion? After talking to my husband, we decided for him to turn around and come home. The ONLY goal I had for that deposition was to get the truth on WHY she did nothing the day of the ultrasound! If Jeff (my husband) would have done anything to keep her from telling the truth, we couldn’t live with that!
Later, after the depo, we discovered that she came in like a bullet, sitting down and immediately began saying that she was a Christian and would not be swearing on any Bible to tell the truth. Well, that’s how it began! Our attorney could not get any logical, decent, medical explanation on WHY she blew off the ultrasound EXCEPT for the machine gave her the wrong readings! He twisted her up so much during the depo, there were times, she was unsure on how to even answer the questions! To me, this proved that she did nothing but screw up! I’ll never know why she didn’t get someone else’s opinion because she will never let us know!
The most difficult decision would come almost two years down the road…to go to trial or to settle out of court. To us, from the beginning, and our attorney, it was an open shut case, later it became apparent to the opposing attorney as well.
Then the case became even colder. It was as if the attorneys forgot there was a life involved and only saw dollar signs. There are no words to describe how we felt when we were asked to give a dollar amount that would be acceptable rather than going to court. We spent days thinking about what to do. How do we let them get off the hook for our daughter’s life? How do we not take it further, we had come this far? My husband and I were almost at breaking points discussing everything. We were so angry and yet so lost in pain that we didn’t know what to do! The attorneys were so cold at discussing dollars that it just broke my heart! But had it not been for that level head that was outside of the picture, we might not have gotten any justice at all for Brittany. Our attorneys biggest argument for not going to trial was that heknew our area very well and knew the type of jury we could possibly get. Of course, we knew that it was a 50/50 chance. He proceeded to tell us about past cases that he had taken and won, but the verdict was so low that one, it ended up costing the families to go to trial; and two, that it ended up disgracing the life of the baby. I wanted neither of those to happen. It was hard when he would play the devil’s advocate with us and tell us things like, well you know the jury might say…you didn’t have a bond with Brittany, she never was alive or you have one healthy child, move on with your life! I know that I could never have gone through hearing that! She was my daughter and I had developed a bond with her the minute I knew I was pregnant!
Another deciding factor for us was that the nurse didn’t tell the truth in the deposition and this meant to us that if she wouldn’t say why in front of just her attorney and ours then she definitely would clam up in front of the world.
The option was then placed on the table to settle. SETTLE! According to Webster, it means to sink gradually to a lover level. How could we just settle? It had been an exasperating two years for us. It was time for us to move on with our lives. We had gotten almost all of what we had wanted and it looked as if the rest was not going to happen no matter what decision we made. So, after many discussions, arguments and tears, we agreed to settle our case out of court. As to the settlement, it was peanuts and always would be in our eyes! It’s very difficult for us to even speak of the money. I still can’t bear the thought of even touching one penny.
To this day and forever, I think we will always wonder whether or not we did the right thing. We honestly believe in our hearts though, that we won and did get some justice for our twins!
The nurse did get reported to the medical board and she is now out of the field. We still have the option of making a complaint against the doctor.
I hope for those of you who are trying to decide whether to proceed legally or not, you find some comfort in our story. We think the biggest issue is why you choose to proceed and the most important issue is that you don’t give up when it gets to be too much; because it will. We would have never found some peace in our situation had we not taken it this far. We were able to find out how my daughter passed away and when. The why will always be a mystery.
We just now celebrated our son’s second birthday (June 25) and the anniversary of our daughter’s death and the day still is filled with half grief and half joy!
If you should decide to proceed in this direction, feel free to contact us. We aren’t attorneys and the laws are different in every state, however we would be more than happy to be there just to listen and lend any emotional support that we could! We don’t want anyone to go through what we have been through, but unfortunately, today there are way to many people going through it – and alone!
This article was written in memory of our precious daughter, Brittany Nicole who we love and miss with all our hearts!
2 lbs. 7 oz.
5 lbs. 3 oz.
June 25, 1999