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Nearly two weeks after the death of 26-year-old Amber Isaac, the Bronx woman who died during an emergency C-section at Montefiore Medical Center, her partner received a letter from the hospital.
It wasn’t a condolence note, Bruce McIntyre said at a news conference Tuesday in front of the north Bronx hospital, but a bill.
“They have the nerve to send us a $2,000 bill after not saving her life,” McIntyre said. “As if we were at fault for this.”
“Every morning, I wake up feeling like this is my fault, or I could have done better,” he added during the news conference. “No, this is not my fault. I don’t want my son Elias growing up feeling like his mother isn’t here because of him.”
In an interview with THE CITY Wednesday, McIntyre declined to say more about the hospital bill, but shared the news that his and Isaac’s son, Elias Isaac McIntyre, is healthy.
Amber Isaac died just days after tweeting that she wanted to write a “tell all” about the “incompetent doctors at Montefiore.”
Since she was under general anesthesia during the delivery, Isaac never got to see or hold her newborn child.
It’s common for hospitals to bill families after a loved one has died in their care, said Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson at the nonprofit National Patient Advocate Foundation, which has compiled a resource guide to assist those diagnosed with COVID-19.
“It just makes that whole situation worse, to be handed that bill,” she said.
In this case, patient advocates at the foundation would likely advise Isaac’s family to call the hospital billing office explaining the tragic circumstances, Donovan said.
“Ultimately, $2,000 to a hospital system is going to be something that they can very easily write off,” she added.
Death Rate Disparities
Since Isaac’s death, McIntyre has mounted a campaign to raise awareness around maternal death and is launching the “Save A Rose” Foundation in her memory.
Though she learned she had a low platelet count in February, Isaac was unable to have in-person visits with doctors through March, McIntyre said.
Coronavirus concerns meant that the soon-to-be mother was only able to meet with her doctors through video calls, he said, despite her repeated requests for in-person appointments.
Isaac, a graduate student at Concordia College, had told McIntyre she dreamed she wouldn’t survive delivery, he said. Black mothers in the U.S., she read, die at a rate three to four times higher than white ones. The disparities are even higher in New York.
A representative at Montefiore, where Isaac’s mother worked, did not respond to a request for comment on this story. In a statement released earlier this week, the hospital touted a maternal mortality rate of 0.01%.
“Ninety-four percent of our deliveries are by minority mothers, and Montefiore’s maternal mortality rate of 0.01% is lower than both New York City and national averages,” the statement read. “Any maternal death is a tragedy. Our hearts go out to Ms. Isaac’s family, especially to her mother, our longtime colleague.”
The use of telehealth visits for prenatal care, like those McIntyre said he and Isaac had with doctors, has soared during the coronavirus pandemic. They allow a doctor and a patient to connect remotely, minimizing the risk of exposure to the virus.
But video calls are not a substitute for office visits, doctors who spoke with THE CITY said.
“We don’t have protocols in place for telemedicine,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, which seeks to reduce racial disparities in maternal and infant health. “We’re building it as we are doing it.”
“So, if you normally, when you’re pregnant, get a visit every month — now we’re saying you don’t need to come in,” Crear-Perry added. “We haven’t decided how often you should come in. Do you need to come in sometimes? Do you need to take your blood pressure at home? What about checking on the heartbeat of the baby? All of those things that we’d normally do in person, we haven’t figured out a way to do it from home.”
‘This Boy is Amazing’
At Tuesday’s news conference, McIntyre was joined by Chivona and Hawk Newsome, the sister and brother co-founders of Black Lives Matter New York.
“Hearing about Amber as a person is what really touches us,” Chivona Newsome, one of several candidates seeking a Congressional seat in the South Bronx, told THE CITY.
“We don’t want her to be another number. We want the world to see her face. We want the world to know her story. We want the world to know that she was making a positive impact on our community and all those around her.”
McIntyre, who says he is committed to becoming an advocate in Isaac’s memory, has been juggling fatherhood along with grief and funeral plans.
“It sucks, ’cause the only available date that I have for Amber’s funeral is on my birthday,” he said.
McIntyre will turn 29 on May 12, when the family expects to bury Isaac.
He said he is comforted by time spent with his son.
“This boy is amazing,” McIntyre said. “Amber would have been real happy.”
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