A Winnipeg family wants to know why a 25-year-old mother died a week after being admitted to hospital to give birth to her third child, and an epidural catheter was left in her back for 28 hours.
Chelean Eaton was treated for meningitis days after giving birth. But seven days after she was admitted to hospital, she was taken off life support after being declared brain-dead.
"I don't want this to happen to another family, it's terrible what we are going through," said Cynthia Eaton, Chelean's mother.
Chelean went into labour on Oct. 30, and went to the HSC Women's Hospital that evening.
She had chosen to have an epidural, and had a catheter placed in her back shortly after 8 a.m. About an hour later, the baby was born.
Eaton's mother says the catheter was supposed to come out within a few hours of delivery, but when she went to see her daughter the next day it was still in.
"I was like, why is that needle still in her?" Eaton says she asked nurses.
Eaton says Chelean was complaining of back pain, but they were told they had to wait for a doctor to take the catheter out.
It was removed around noon on Nov. 1, 28 hours after it was put in.
But Eaton says her daughter's discomfort didn't go away.
"She wasn't feeling well, her pain was getting worse … it started travelling up to her shoulders, her back was aching, her head was pounding all the time," she said.
Eaton says her daughter was moved to a different floor for observation and given medication for the pain. She had a blood test which found an infection, but Eaton says staff told her they wouldn't know what it was for a couple of days.
Set to go home when seizure hit 'like a sledgehammer'
Eaton says by Friday morning her daughter said she was feeling better and was scheduled to be released in the early afternoon.
"I received a strange text from her, and it was gibberish, I couldn't make sense of it," said Eaton.
Eaton said before she got to the hospital to pick her daughter up, she had collapsed.
"They found her on the floor with the baby, and I just knew something really bad is happening," said Eaton.
Chelean suffered a seizure, and was taken from the Women's Hospital to Health Sciences Centre.
"We didn't expect to see her on a gurney getting rushed out and she was convulsing, and she was having seizures," she said.
"[The doctor] said [the seizure] was like a sledgehammer, and it hit her hard, and so it's like she didn't have a chance and it just got worse and worse," she said.
Eaton says she continued to have seizures into the night. She said that the doctors began treating her daughter for meningitis, but it was too late.
"I just watched her suffer all night, it was like a seizure, and a seizure, and a seizure, after one another and I couldn't do anything for her," she said.
Eaton's daughter had to be sedated so she could get an MRI and CT scan. Eaton said they also put a breathing tube in her throat.
Eaton said the scans showed that her brain had suffered severe swelling.
"And they said it's gotten worse, and there's severe brain damage, and that's when I knew I was gonna lose my girl," she said.
A spokesperson for HSC said they couldn't comment on this specific case because of privacy legislation, but said the situation has been declared a "critical incident."
"Staff had ongoing communication with the family throughout the patient's time in hospital and that we are actively reviewing what happened," said Katherine Fox, an HSC spokesperson.
She said once the review is complete the hospital will meet with the family to let them know what was found and how they plan to proceed.
Fox said the hospital will continue to provide support to the family throughout the investigation.
"We are deeply saddened about what happened and are committed to learning from and improving how we provide care. We are very sorry for the family's loss, and extend our sincere condolences to them and their loved ones during this difficult time."
Taken off life support 1 week later
Eaton said another test was done on Sunday, Nov. 5, to confirm she was brain-dead, and Eaton was taken off life support the following day, just one week after going into labour and being admitted to hospital.
"Me and her dad decided to let her go, [it was] the hardest thing I've ever done," she said.
Eaton says she spoke with the medical examiner days later and was told her daughter died of acute meningitis, which likely entered her body through the catheter in her back.
"They said, from the two tests they performed in the autopsy, that it is definitely acute meningitis that she died of," said Eaton.
"They said most likely [from] the epidural."
Family seeking a lawyer
Eaton now plans to raise her daughter's two other girls, eight-year-old Airiele and nine-year-old Neveah. Chelean's partner will be raising the new baby boy, named Damien.
"She had so much dreams, she had so many things to do still, and her partner is having such a hard time," said Eaton.
Eaton says she has questions about why the catheter was left in place for so long, and why Chelean wasn't treated sooner when she was showing signs of meningitis.
"She started displaying confusion, she didn't know where she was … she was delirious," said Eaton.
Eaton says she plans to get a lawyer, but wants to speak with the doctors and hospital staff first.
"I don't want to point my finger quite yet," she said.
"I just don't want this to happen to anybody else," she said.
"Maybe they could have caught it earlier, she could have received the medicine more earlier, and it could have made a difference ... she should have come home, but she didn't."