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Death of young mother brings attention to racial differences in maternal mortality

Posted at 7:29 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 12:23:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis healthcare community is mourning the loss of one of their own, but the loss of the 30-year old mother is bringing to light alarming racial differences in maternal mortality.

Chaniece Wallace had an infectious smile, one her daughter Charlotte won’t get the chance to experience.

“She was brave,” said Anthony Wallace.

Things were fine throughout her pregnancy up until a routine doctor’s appointment where she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication. In her case, she had high blood pressure.

There was a month left until her due date, but things escalated quickly from there.

“My wife kept letting them know 'I am having severe pains in my abdomen' and she was pointing to the area where her liver is located,” Wallace said.

He says doctors rushed the mother in for an emergency cesarean, but once baby Charlotte arrived prematurely; things never truly turned around.

“I ended up crying, but she reassured me that 'babe it is going to be ok' and she actually had to encourage me in that moment,” Wallace said.

Since his wife was a physician finishing up her residency here in Indianapolis, Wallace says he believed her.

"That was their last interaction before she passed way,“ Wallace said.

"African American women and women of color, but primarily African American women, are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy or delivery,” Dr. Lindi Randall-Hayes said.

She says this outcome is a problem but not a new one.

“Studies have shown that race changes the outcome, it is a factor in the outcome of black women surviving labor and delivery and we have to change that,” Randall-Hayes said.

She says it’ll take advocacy and education to turn the tide. As for right now, the Wallace family is left looking for the silver linings.

“My wife will live on through our daughter Charlotte,” Wallace said.

That’s not all since she was a donor. In fact, the Indiana Donor Network calls her a hero.

“Chaniece leaves behind a legacy of saving five lives,” said Indiana Donor Network Director of Family and Donor Services Jamie Rivas.

Black celebrities such as Serena Williams and Beyonce have been very vocal about their own experiences giving birth and the complications they encountered.

Experts say in order to make a real change, it will take treating women of color with the same urgency and attentive ear as any other patient as well as removing unconscious bias.

Baby Charlotte is expected to come home any day now. A GoFundMe has been created to help support the family.