Guest Column

My sons were born breathing at 22 weeks, and the hospital wouldn’t help them

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post that was submitted to Live Action News. All photos courtesy of Katelyn McCauley and Ryan Erickson.

On August 12, 2018, I went to sleep with no pain or warning signs and woke up to my water breaking in the middle of the night at 22 weeks and two days gestation. My fiancé Ryan and I rushed to the nearest emergency room at a Pennsylvania hospital and they confirmed I was in preterm labor. Both our twins were alive, healthy, and kicking. The doctor had hoped that they could be saved, and transferred me via ambulance to a hospital that has a Level III NICU (the first hospital was a Level II). The doctor reassured us that she’s “seen this kind of thing happen and babies can survive.” At the time I was scared but hopeful.  

Katelyn and Ryan (Photo by Katelyn McCauley/Ryan Erickson)

Once I got there, the very first nurse I spoke with asked me if I wanted an abortion. I didn’t even know that was something they could legally ask me, and I was highly upset and offended. I said, “Absolutely not! I am in active labor and want to have my children.”

He said “Well, we normally say there’s too many health risks and a lot of people decide to just terminate the pregnancy.”

I replied, “Well, I am not one of them and my boys are healthy, so don’t ask me again.”

The twins had no health issues whatsoever and I had a very easy pregnancy with them up until this situation occurred.  

As my labor progressed, I was transferred into a delivery room where a few different specialist doctors came to speak with me. It was almost as if they all had a meeting beforehand and decided my children’s fate for them without the blink of an eye. Every single one sounded like a robot, repeating, “They have a 0% chance of viability and survival rate.” It didn’t matter what question I, my fiancé, or my parents asked — it was always the same answer.

READ: Doctors chose not to save 21-week twins, potentially old enough to survive outside the womb

Even though we blatantly said multiple times that we wanted them to be resuscitated, the answer was a solid “no.” After multiple questions of every sort, their reasoning started changing slightly to either “they have a 0% chance of viability” or “they will have extreme health problems.” Also, when we asked if I could try and keep Gregory (my second twin) in the womb, we were told that I definitely had to deliver both of them because I would be at risk for infection and I could possibly die. My first twin was the one who broke his water sac — not my second twin. The doctors decided for us that they weren’t going to save our boys, even though I was healthy and they had no health issues at all.  

After being in labor for close to 12 hours, I delivered our first son, Knox, at 2:32 p.m. He was perfect. He looked just like me but had Ryan’s hands and feet. He was born alive and breathing, but the delivering doctor ran out of the room the second they set him on my chest. He was beautiful and perfectly formed. Staff offered no assistance, and he passed away about 30 minutes after birth. 

Twin’s foot (Photo by Katelyn McCauley/Ryan Erickson)

After we all held Knox, I still laid on the bed with my second twin inside my womb. When about two hours passed and there was still no doctor in sight, I asked one of the nurses what was going on. The doctors scared me so badly saying that I could die, then left me in the bed for over two hours with no idea what was going on. The doctor finally came in to check me and said I definitely had to deliver my second twin, then confirmed that he wasn’t head down and said she had to turn him manually. It was the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt.

She then said, “I’m sorry, but you are only 4 cm dilated now, so we will have to give you Pitocin to start labor again.”  

I said, “That’s a good sign, right, because my body is retracting and keeping our second baby?”

The doctor said no, insisting I still had to deliver him, and then she manually broke his sac of waters. She said it could take three to six hours to deliver him once they administered Pitocin, so my fiancé ran home to grab clothes for both of us and let our dogs out. Not even 10 minutes later, I felt pressure and knew something happened. My second baby came out before they even started the induction.

Twin’s hand (Photo by Katelyn McCauley/Ryan Erickson)

I’ve tried to become a more spiritual person after all of these horrible events, and thought this was my baby saying he didn’t want me to be in pain anymore. Gregory was born at 5:47 p.m. — breathing — and he was just as perfect as Knox. He looked more like Ryan than me and was beautiful and perfectly formed.

The doctor again immediately left the room and didn’t assist him at all. 

Ryan and I stayed in the hospital overnight and held our babies as long as we could, with the use of a Cuddle Cot. I requested to have our babies baptized but the hospital couldn’t find a pastor to come and do it. They only sent someone to do a Remembrance Prayer for them.

Twins Knox and Gregory (Photo by Katelyn McCauley/Ryan Erickson)

After I was discharged, it felt like I wasn’t living. I was constantly in a daze, barely wanted to shower or eat. I felt that I failed my children completely, through no fault of my own. I went from planning out details of my baby shower to details of their funeral.

Twins Knox and Gregory (Photo by Katelyn McCauley/Ryan Erickson)

Once a few months passed, I finally started researching everything that happened to me, and multiple doctors have told me personally that this should never have been handled the way that it was. They told me that…

1) Our children were entitled to a full examination once they were born.  

2) Once examined, their information should have been put into the Viability Calculator that all NICUs use. 

3) The hospital, being a Level III NICU, was more than equipped to help my children at our request.

I have found that there are so many mothers and families that are going through the same thing we have. I have been striving to bring as much awareness to this as possible in hopes that changes are made. I am not God so I don’t know if Knox and Greg would be here today if given a chance. However, I know they should have been given that chance. I hope I can bring even more awareness and push for changes so no one else has to go through such a horrible loss. No one should have to bury their children.

Editor’s Note: Katelyn McCauley communicated with the hospital system via email and received what appears to be an automated reply in January 2019 which she shared with Live Action News. It reads in part, “Thank you for sharing your concerns with The Joint Commission about the loss of your twins in August 2018. We offer our deepest condolences. The Joint Commission takes any information about one of our accredited organizations seriously. We will review your concerns and determine if we can take any action….”

McCauley also told Live Action News she filed a Civil Rights complaint, but there have been no updates from the hospital or otherwise since that time.

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