The birth of your child is supposed to be an exciting day, but for one couple it turned out to be one of the most traumatic days of their life.
Caroline Malatesta was brought to the hospital to deliver her fourth child in 2012, but the mother's experience was one that no one should have to go through. Malatesta chose to go to the Brookwood Baptist Medical Center after seeing that it had an area dedicated to natural births. It claimed it was filled with everything needed to make a natural delivery go smoothly, and that gave her some comfort.
"Brookwood's advertising is what first piqued my interest in natural birth," Malatesta said. "It added a layer of legitimacy. Natural birth wasn't just a trend; these were real medical decisions."
She was assured that her birth would go smoothly, but as soon as she arrived in the birthing suite everything took a turn for the worst.
"When I walked into my birthing room, the nurse told me to go to the bathroom right away, because I wouldn't be able to get out of the bed for maybe for the rest of labor," Malatesta explained. "I told her that my doctor said I'd have wireless monitoring and that I would be able to be mobile, but the nurse said my doctor wasn't on call. From that point on, it became a back-and-forth of "But my doctor said I could" and "But you don't get to." The nurse treated me like a disobedient child!"
She wasn't being given the treatment that was advertised. "I was resisting, but at the same time, I was trying to accommodate because you're vulnerable, you're in labor," she said. "I do get into the bed, I do put on a gown (even though the hospital advertised you could wear your own clothes), I do get on my back, even though it was very painful."
The nurse who was assigned to her care didn't care that Malatesta was confused. "I kept asking, "Why? Why?" but the nurse wasn't answering me. She ignored me, acting almost annoyed with me."
After several moments of arguing, everything got a lot more complicated and dramatic. "Then, suddenly, I felt a big contraction coming on and I jumped onto my hands and knees, and told them that I couldn't be on my back," Malatesta remembered. "My water broke and the baby's head started crowning."
It only got worse from there...
Malatesta's dramatic story is unlike anyone else's. "The nurse told me to get on my back. I stayed on my hands and knees and breathed, trying to relax, as that is what came naturally to me. But the nurse pulled my wrist out from under me and flipped me over on to my back! Then another nurse held my baby's head into my vagina to prevent him from being delivered. The nurses were holding me down, and I was struggling — really struggling. I grabbed the side of the bed, and at one point, I even put my foot up against the nurse's shoulder and face to try and get leverage to flip back over, but was unsuccessful."
Her husband had no idea what was going on, no idea that their baby was being forcibly held in place. "After six minutes of this, the doctor finally runs in. The nurse lets go of the baby's head and I felt immediate relief, because that deep pressure of her holding the head in against the force of my contractions was finally released. That's why I'm so horribly injured, because she kept holding the baby in."
It took a while for her to realize the full extent of her injury. "Signs of an injury started from right after the delivery, and over months, developed into a full-blown nerve injury. I was having abnormal nerve sensations: pins and needles, numbness, burning. I knew something was wrong. I kept going back to my ob-gyn and he kept reassuring me, because he didn't know anything was really wrong."
"Eight months after the birth, the worst of it came on suddenly. I was so debilitated that we had to move in with my parents and receive full-time help for me and my children," she said. "It's a very, very, painful, debilitating condition. I was completely nonfunctional for six months."
"Because of the trauma I sustained from fighting while birthing, I now suffer from a permanent and debilitating nerve condition called pudendal neuralgia," Malatesta said.
After the hospital ignored her questions, she was forced into filing a lawsuit. It took two years before the case finally reached the court, and after nine hours of deliberation, the jury sided with her.
She was awarded $10 million in compensatory damages for the injuries she sustained, $1 million for her husband for 'loss of consortium', and another $5 million in punitive damages for reckless fraud.
However, despite the relief of knowing that she has been proven right in her actions, she still is suffering. "Pain is fatiguing because you spend so much of your energy fighting the pain," she said. "I'm rarely totally out of pain. I try to take only the amount of medication that will make it bearable, because otherwise I'll fall asleep. It's a daily balance."
Unbelievable that this medical center would treat a woman like this. Luckily, the jury found them guilty, so hopefully other facilities will learn that treatment like this is absolutely unacceptable.