In our ongoing blog series, "Say Her Name, Share Her Story," we are delving into the lives and stories behind the alarming numbers in the maternal mortality crisis. Today, we share the story of Amber Rose Isaac, shedding light on why advocating for change in maternal child healthcare is not just an option but an absolute necessity for the health and future of our communities.
Amber Rose Isaac: A Life Remembered:
Amber Rose Isaac and her longtime partner Bruce McIntyre III had always dreamed of opening a daycare center to serve their Bronx and Harlem community. Isaac had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was also studying for her master’s in business development at Concordia College. She had a dream of bringing an "art therapy program to the youth and to families with limited incomes". McIntyre stated in an interview. Between McIntyre’s talent and work as a stock market consultant, coupled with Amber’s vision and ambition, this dynamic duo was sure to create positive change in their communities for families through their partnership.
Sadly, their dream never had an opportunity to come to fruition because shortly after midnight on April 21, 2020, Amber Rose Isaac died after giving birth to their son Elias via an emergency C-section at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. She was 26 years old.
“It’s very hard being in this home and imagining her here with us,” McIntyre states. “She never got to even meet him. She never got to see him. And she was just so thrilled about having him.”
Ironically, shortly before Amber's death she tweeted that she wanted to write a "tell all about the incompetent doctors at Montefiore". This is a tell all we will never get to read, but it goes something like this...
All of Isaac’s appointments up to her six month appointment had been virtual due to the pandemic. The couple considered doing a homebirth because during this time many hospitals weren't allowing partners and family into the delivery room. They consulted with a local-based midwife and doula-Nubia Earth Martin, in order to determine their options. Martin was "immediately" concerned by Isaac's prenatal medical records, including her low platelet count.
For context, platelets are what causes your blood to clot so that when you have a cut or wound you don't just keep bleeding but the blood will congeal and eventually clot to stop the blood flow. Therefore, a low platelet count would significantly increase a woman's risk for bleeding and hemorrhage during pregnancy. Hemorrhage (a form of uncontrolled bleeding) is one of the primary complications that can occur during delivery that can cause maternal death.
Issac’s platelets being low was a significant issue and should have been a priority concern of her medical team. Isaac's blood platelet count had been declining since December 2019, there was no indication of follow up at her last in person appointment in February 2020 and her low platelet count had not been addressed.
The midwife also was concerned because Amber was denied leave from her job at a local daycare where she was working- even though she reported experiencing chronic fatigue, which was most likely a result of her low platelet and blood counts.
"When she said she had not seen her provider in person since February, that immediately jumped out as a red flag to me", Martin states. “She said that they told her that ‘telehealth was enough’”. In this case, they were wrong.
Martin was unable to take Isaac on as a client because the mother-to-be was anemic and having other signs of pregnancy complications. She urged the couple to find a doctor or hospital that could take over her care. Midwives generally do not take on high risk pregnant people as clients because home-birth environments are generally not conducive to emergent situations and would not have ample resources such as blood transfusions or other emergent medical equipment
A month before Amber's due date, doctors at Montefiore Medical Center induced her labor. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome which is a group of symptoms that are related to Preeclampsia-a pregnancy complication that Includes high blood pressure and organ damage.
HELLP stands for Hemolysis (red blood cell breakdown), Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelets. So in this syndrome, the red blood cells break down, the liver enzymes are elevated which can cause organ damage, and the platelets are low, in addition to having dangerously high blood pressures which can cause stroke or seizures.
Because Amber’s C-section was emergent and this was during the time of the pandemic her partner Bruce McIntyre was not allowed into the operating room as she was wheeled in for her C-section.
In interview, McIntyre states he was informed afterwards by the hospital staff that Isaac's blood wouldn't clot- "it was like water.” Her uterus was removed in an effort to stop the bleeding which was unsuccessful. The doctors ultimately ended up massaging her heart in a desperate and failed bid to keep her alive. “It seemed like nobody in that room knew what they were doing at all”.
Elias Isaac McIntyre was born late on April 20th 2020. Amber Rose Isaac died minutes later shortly after midnight. Due to the hospital pandemic visitor restrictions, she died alone. She never got the chance to hold her newborn child.
To add insult to injury, Montefiore Hospital billed the family $2000 after her death which they were forced to pay.
At the time, Isaac’s death received national attention, including from Vice President Kamala Harris who was a US senator at the time. "We need to speak truth that this pandemic is highlighting deep racial disparities in our healthcare system”. The words that she spoke during that time are even more true today.
Where are we now?
The reality is that these disparities continue to persist from the pandemic and they are worsening. According to the most recent CDC report, 754 mothers died due to pregnancy complications in 2019. That number increased to 861 mothers in 2020. In 2021, that number increased again by over 300 deaths to a reported 1205 mothers who died due to pregnancy complications. That is 1205 women in the United States of America. We are supposed to be a world leader, but in this case we are the world leader for worse maternal outcomes and statistics of any developed nation. Not the example we want to be known for.
These numbers are terrifying and unacceptable especially when we consider that it's estimated that over 80% of maternal deaths are preventable and 100% of maternal deaths due to suicide, mental health, and substance use conditions are preventable.
We are the world leader for worse maternal outcomes and statistics of any developed nation
Enough is enough and it is time to take action. We must support policies and programs to provide better support for mothers and families. For example, providing support for a universal paid maternal leave policy which Amber Rose was denied. Provide support for programs that provide comprehensive health care for women before, during, and after pregnancy to support healthy women and improve pregnancy outcomes.
Most importantly we need to LISTEN to women, listen when they say that they are experiencing complications, listen when they say that they are experiencing things that ‘ just don't feel right’. We must take a stand for Amber Rose Isaac and every other mother and family that has been affected by this tragic crisis.
Mother Baby and Beyond: Bringing Change to Our Communities:
Join us on October 29th at the "Say Her Name” 5K and Health Fair for Maternal Mortality Awareness 5K and Fair to say the names of Amber Rose Isaac and other victims of maternal mortality, honor those who have survived severe pregnancy complications, and support programming and advocacy for healthier futures for the women of our community. Our goal is 300+ walkers united behind the cause of supporting healthy pregnancies and ending maternal mortality.
If this cause speaks to you please register today. It will be an amazing event. We have a full agenda planned for you for the day which you can check out on our Eventbrite page. Snacks and beverages, fair activities and resources-complete with swag bag, are included for every registered participant. Don’t forget to order your shirt for the day of the event!
It will be a fun, family-friendly community health fair event with food trucks, family activities, bouncy house for the kids, vendors with community resources and education to support healthy women, healthy pregnancies, and a healthy parenting journey- because as we say at MB&B ‘Every Mother Deserves to Survive and Thrive’.
If you are unable to attend on that day, no worries, you can still show your support by donating to the cause. You can donate through the Eventbrite page by obtaining a "donor ticket”. You can also show your support by buying a participant T-shirt to wear and promote awareness of maternal mortality wherever you are! You can purchase a shirt today through the shop by visiting HERE.
All proceeds will go directly towards supporting mothers in the community by providing funding for access to much-needed healthcare for women before, during, and after pregnancy; provision of resources and maternity home support kits, including blood pressure home monitoring kits, diapers, wipes, and more.
A Call to Action
Support saving the lives of mothers in our community by registering today. It's an opportunity to participate in a fun community exercise and awareness event, support putting an end to maternal mortality, and a fitness challenge that gives you a chance to trim and tone just in time for the holidays! ;)
Our goal is 300+ registered participants united in supporting healthy women, healthy babies and families. Help us reach our goal. Because ‘Every mother deserves to survive and thrive’.
"She never got to even meet him. And she was just so thrilled about having him"
Amber Rose Isaac's story is a stark reminder that the maternal mortality crisis is not just a statistic; it's a human tragedy that is leaving behind motherless children and shattered families. We must remember her name, share her story, and take decisive action to prevent further loss of life. Join us in our mission to provide care within the community and work to save the lives of mothers everywhere.
CDC- Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States, 2021
The City- ‘Every Day I Wake Up Fighting For Her:’ A Year After the Childbirth Death of Amber Rose Isaac, What’s Changed?
The Guardian- New York mother dies after raising alarm on hospital neglect