British Columbia

Death of couple's 'miracle' baby after difficult delivery at B.C. hospital prompts review

A North Vancouver couple is demanding answers about the death of their newborn after a traumatic delivery at Lions Gate Hospital last month.

Parents want investigation into doctor responsible for delivery at Lions Gate Hospital

Emilie Negahban and Robin Addison's newborn son Nathaniel died last month following a traumatic delivery at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. (Belle Puri/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

A North Vancouver couple is demanding answers about the death of their newborn after a traumatic delivery at Lions Gate Hospital last month.

Emilie Negahban and partner Robin Addison say they want a full investigation into the doctor who delivered little Nathaniel on Feb. 3, along with a review promised by Vancouver Coastal Health.

"There were a lot of steps that led to us losing a perfectly healthy baby boy that was a miracle to us. It left us broken, and left us coming home to nothing," Negahban told CBC News.

The baby boy died after multiple attempts to extract him using a vacuum pump when his skull became stuck in his mother's pelvis during the delivery, according to the couple. He was "flat and flaccid" when he was finally delivered by emergency C-section, hospital records show.

"I knew that something was going on. My boy was not crying," Addison said.

Nathaniel was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at B.C. Children's Hospital, where doctors were unable to save him. He died in Negahban's arms.

A cause of death has yet to be determined, but the family says the infant suffered a brain bleed during the delivery.

"The bleed actually got so bad that by the time he passed away in our arms, his head was so swollen that they could barely put a hat on him," Negahban said.

Vancouver Coastal Health told CBC in a written statement that there will be a "comprehensive review" into Nathaniel's death.

"A loss of this nature is heartbreaking for the family and care providers. We are deeply saddened by this incident and share our deepest condolences with the affected family," the statement said.

Staffing shortages delayed induction

Negahban, a 31-year-old cervical cancer survivor, described her pregnancy as "a miracle of God," saying she'd been told she would be unable to conceive.

Although she understood there might be some risks because of her medical history, Negahban said her pregnancy was easy, and the fetus appeared to be healthy at every stage of the process.

The baby was due on Feb. 22, but Negahban headed to the hospital on Feb. 2 after her water broke early in the morning. She says she was turned away twice because her cervix wasn't dilated enough, but on the third attempt she insisted, saying she was concerned about the risk of infection.

Medical records show labour wasn't induced until more than a day after Negahban first visited the hospital, stating "unfortunately due to staffing [we] could not accommodate induction initially."

Emilie Negahban and Robin Addison hold newborn Nathaniel at B.C. Children's Hospital. (Supplied by Emilie Negahban)

Negahban said she tried pushing for more than four hours, during which time she developed a fever. 

"At some point, the baby got stuck in my pubic bone," she recalled. "I told them all that I was completely fine with a C-section."

But she said the attending doctor kept pushing for a natural birth. 

Eventually, when it became clear the baby wasn't moving, the doctor decided to use suction to help the process, according to Negahban. She and Addison allege they weren't informed about the risks associated with the procedure. 

The couple says the doctor attempted vacuum delivery multiple times, but each time the suction cup fell off the baby's head.

"My pelvis was not large enough for the baby, but they kept trying to pull him out," Negahban said.

It was only after the third unsuccessful attempt that an emergency C-section was performed, she said, after which the baby was taken to B.C. Children's Hospital because he was having trouble breathing on his own.

'I have nothing'

Since Nathaniel's death, Negahban said she's also had to deal with infections in her uterus and kidneys.

She said she's spoken to multiple lawyers about suing the hospital and the doctor, but has been turned down every time. As she's learned, B.C.'s Family Compensation Act makes it difficult to file a wrongful death lawsuit over a child, because it mainly allows compensation for things like loss of financial support or household services.

Meanwhile, an autopsy has yet to be completed, so the couple has been unable to claim their newborn's remains. 

"It's just the two of us. There's nothing I can even look at and pray to — there's not even an urn that I can speak to when I want to be closer to him. I have nothing," Negahban said.

With files from Belle Puri