WARNING: Details in the following story may be upsetting to some readers
A Penticton woman is calling for a change at the Penticton Regional Hospital and Interior Health, after a traumatic night losing her baby was made worse by what she describes as a lack of medical care and compassion.
Sara* spoke to Castanet from the empty nursery of her Penticton home, talking through the story of her miscarriage and the trauma she endured while desperate for help at the hospital.
She sat in the rocking chair that she and her partner set up in the room, anticipating their son. Her voice was often filled with emotion as she relived the experience.
On the night of Sept. 3, 2022, Sara started to feel some cramps and pain, just over 15 weeks into her pregnancy.
“I called my midwife. And she just said, if it got worse, to go to the emergency room, and it got worse. They were contractions at the time, which I didn't know.”
Sara headed to PRH with her partner, where they say they sat for an hour and a half with no help in an empty waiting room. Their midwife had called ahead to inform staff that Sara would be coming in and that the situation didn't look good.
Sara said they were told at the time there were no beds available for them. Meanwhile, her pain continued to grow.
“At that point, we knew we would probably miscarry our son,” she said. “I can't count how many times my partner asked for help.”
Left alone in the waiting room, Sara said a staff member finally told them they could use the bathroom.
“I went in there and gave birth to my son all by myself screaming for help because I didn't know what was happening. At this point, I was in complete shock.”
“I was scared, my partner was scared. We both just thought that there would be this level of normal decency from just being human, you know, human to human. We didn't even get that. You see somebody in pain or asking for help, your normal reaction is to run to them and help them and ask what you can do. We didn't get that, we didn't get that at all.”
Sara’s partner managed to finally get help from the security guard, who brought over a nurse.
“I was just standing there in the bathrooms by the wheelchair just with my son hanging out of me. And we had no help. And finally, a nurse came.”
The nurse then proceeded to try to move her into a wheelchair in which she wanted Sara to sit. But she was still connected to her deceased son.
“She told me I had to sit down, but that would mean that I would be crushing him, which I told her from the start, I didn't want to crush him. As much as he was deceased, he still deserves the respect that anybody else deserves.”
Sara’s partner helped her by grabbing some paper towels from the bathroom to help her hold and carry their son in while he remained attached to her.
Once in the room, Sarah claims no one checked on her for hours. She waited again alone and covered in blood.
“I delivered the rest of the afterbirth by myself, with of course my partner there,” she added.
Soon after, Sara’s mother-in-law arrived and requested assistance in providing her with a shower. Sara said she was left on her own to look for soap, towels and a new gown.
A doctor came in later with paperwork to get Sara discharged and decide on what they wanted to do with their son's body.
“I was told a counsellor would be calling me and I never got a call. And at this point, it was probably about three in the morning and I got discharged. They gave me a little bit of postpartum stuff like some mesh underwear and pads to take home and they told me to rest up. And that was it, we left the hospital and we came home.”
Sara said that when her mother-in-law questioned the nursing staff on why there was such a lack of care, they told her that they had not received the necessary training to treat miscarriages and that dealing with it was completely out of their scope.
Sara said she was appalled that the staff didn’t call up to the labour ward for help, or contact her midwife. Nor did they direct her to another hospital to receive care.
Later that morning, Sara and her husband decided to drive to get checked out at Kelowna General Hospital in the labour and delivery ward.
“As soon as I went up there, I was still full of emotion. I could barely talk and they [the nursing staff] knew that there something was wrong. Maybe five or six nurses ran to us and [said] ‘How can we help?’”
“They immediately brought me to a room. Some of them gave me hugs. Some of them shared their story with me about how they too have lost a child.”
Sara said she immediately noticed a significant difference in care between the two hospitals.
“From the moment we got brought to the emergency room downstairs, the registration staff was completely appalled. They're the ones that told me that I should follow up with a complaint. That the way Penticton hospital dealt with this was completely awful and that nobody deserves to be treated like that.
“Everybody just was so understanding. And they said we came to the right place. So I'm glad we did.”
An OBGYN took over their care and directed them to the emergency department, where she would be helping oversee their case.
“They did all the things that we thought they would do here at the Penticton hospital, check for my blood levels, do an ultrasound, check if I needed the D&C and they ruled everything out.”
Since then, Sara and her partner have still been working on their nursery. She sought out counselling to help her cope with the experience.
The pair have also submitted a formal complaint letter to IH.
Sara said she wants no other expectant mothers to be treated like she was.
“I want to share it because I think it's important for other women, for other families, for other couples to maybe feel heard. If it's happened to me, it's probably happened to somebody else.”
“I think it should be heard. I think we should raise some awareness that this is not the level of care that we should be receiving. We have a state-of-the-art hospital here in town, two minutes from my house and it wasn't accessible to me in the ways that I needed it to be. And that just doesn't sit right with me.”
Sara hopes to see the Penticton hospital come up with some new ways to come about helping other women that are dealing with miscarriages. She requested a formal apology from the hospital for their care, and to financially cover the couple’s counselling needs for the trauma, as well as monetary compensation for the gas and mileage to drive to Kelowna, lost wages, and sundry items, all mentioned in documents reviewed by Castanet with Sara's permission.
So far, Sara said an Interior Health agent has called her and an investigation file has been opened.
The agent went through IH patient care file procedures and the following steps, along with discussing compensation and ways the hospital can improve moving forward to avoid a reoccurring situation.
Castanet contacted Interior Health for comment. IH has stated they cannot comment on the specifics of a personal health care issue.
Castanet has requested further information on what the investigation process will look like for this complaint, how the hospital and ER will be assessed, and if issues are found, if there would be further training provided to the staff, as well as information on what care a patient should receive from the hospital during the time when they are going through a miscarriage.
IH did not get back to Castanet by the provided deadline.
“At this point, I have lost a lot of trust and faith in our Penticton hospital. But if I have to make the trip to Kelowna to get the care that I deserve and need in that time, we will go there,” Sara said.
“I know that we will bring another baby home. But for now, I'm just doing what I think is best and that's speaking up about this and looking after myself with counselling and support from family and friends.
“We're moving forward and what keeps me moving forward is that I'm doing this for my son and for the other women out there that didn't feel like they could speak up.”
*Castanet has agreed to shield Sara's identity by using this pseudonym