Former Chiefs cheerleader’s death after stillbirth raises questions about maternal care

krystal anderson husband clayton anderson

When former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader Krystal Anderson and husband Clayton Anderson found out Krystal was pregnant last November, they were cautious. Krystal has had a stillbirth before, in November of 2022. And at 40 years old, her pregnancy was high-risk. But despite that, they encountered difficulty getting her the care they knew she and their baby needed.

“One of the issues that I guess I have with the system overall is Krystal is 40, and she’s Black, and we’d had a loss before, but even then they say you know, you can’t start a plan with maternal fetal medicine or the high-risk maternity doctors until you get to week 14,” Clayton told ABC News.

By the 16th week, Krystal had had uterine fibroids removed and undergone a cerclage procedure to try to keep her pregnancy viable. But at that point, she was told her next visit with a doctor wouldn’t be until week 20. Doctors planned to admit Krystal to a specialized unit if she made it to 22 weeks, but late in week 20, she was rushed to the hospital with back pain, a symptom of complications, and no heartbeat could be detected.

The couple only had a few hours to grieve the loss of their daughter, Charlotte Willow, before Krystal began showing signs of sepsis, including a high fever. Doctors gave Krystal and epidural and attempted to let her deliver Charlotte naturally, but she wasn’t successful.

“‘We have to get Charlotte out of there,'” Clayton said the doctors told them. “‘Because you’re not trending very well, and now it’s about saving you, mama.'”

After surgery, Krystal was placed on a ventilator and dialysis amid kidney, liver, and lung failure. She died a few days later.

Maternal sepsis is a life-threatening condition that leads to organ injury and failure due to the body’s inability to respond to an infection during pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum period. It disproportionately affects Black women, like Krystal. And studies have shown that women are 14 times more likely to experience septic shock after a stillbirth than after a live birth.

Krystal’s death has her family and friends asking questions about the healthcare system — especially why pregnancy and birth are so much more dangerous for Black women in the U.S.

“All pregnancy is high risk, especially, moreso, when you’re a woman of color, or you’re older, and they should be treated that way from the start,” Clayton said.

He added, “Expecting somebody who’s had a loss to go four weeks in between seeing their care providers… That’s the same protocol that’s done for a 23-year-old that’s very healthy. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all.”