Nicole Guerro’s baby girl was born dead in jail because instead of taking Nicole to a hospital when she had contractions and a major uterine problem, jail officials placed her in solitary confinement so she could give birth privately on a mat. Nicole was forced to give birth all alone, with no assistance for her and her baby. The baby’s umbilical cord became wrapped around her neck (nuchal cord), causing a severe lack of oxygen to her brain. Nicole had been bleeding profusely throughout labor. When the baby was delivered, the cord was all the way around her neck and she was blue and not breathing. No CPR or resuscitation was attempted and the little girl was pronounced dead when she was finally taken to the hospital.
Nicole was arrested for drug possession on June 2nd, 2012 in Wichita Falls, Texas. After being in the county jail for 9 days, Nicole discovered she was 34 weeks pregnant during a routine prison obstetrical visit. The nurse measured Nicole’s stomach, quickly listened to the baby’s heartbeat, gave Nicole a prescription for a vaginal infection and sent her back to the jail cell.
Later that evening, Nicole complained of lower back pain, cramping and vaginal bleeding. These are all signs of a very serious problem with the uterus (womb). When these signs are occurring, it could mean that the mother has a placental abruption, which is when the placenta tears away from the uterus, or it could be an indication of a ruptured uterus, which is a complete tear in the womb. Both placental abruption and uterine rupture are obstetrical emergencies that require very close, continuous monitoring of the baby’s heart rate to make sure the baby isn’t in distress. More importantly, these emergent situations almost always require immediate delivery (usually by C-section) of the baby to prevent the baby from experiencing severe oxygen deprivation and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Depending on the location of the tear or rupture, the baby could be cut off from an adequate supply of oxygen. In some cases, the baby might be completely cut off from the supply of oxygen rich blood going to her through the placenta and umbilical cord. To make matters worse, the baby girl was suffering from the additional problem of having the cord wrapped around her neck. This can deprive the baby of oxygen in multiple ways, such as compression of the umbilical cord as well as a decreased supply of blood flowing to the baby’s brain due to the neck vessels being pressed upon by the cord.
While Nicole was experiencing severe bleeding, back pain and cramping, her cries for help and repeated pushes of the emergency medical help button were completely ignored. In fact, some guards were even laughing at her. At one point, the nurse faintly acknowledged that Nicole and her baby might need help and said she’d be back. Nicole had been feeling intense pressure in her lower abdomen, and when the baby’s head started to become visible, a prison guard finally came into the cell to help with delivery. The little girl was born blue and lifeless with a nuchal cord. The nurse arrived when the baby was finally delivered and did not attempt to resuscitate the baby or give CPR. The only thing she did was pat the baby on the back. An ambulance was eventually called, and when the newborn girl arrived at the hospital, she was pronounced dead.
PREGNANT WOMEN AND THEIR BABIES REQUIRE SPECIALIZED MEDICAL CARE
Ignoring an unborn baby is inexcusable. Unborn babies must be closely monitored because nobody can directly view the baby to see how she is doing, and unborn babies are unable to tell people when they are in distress and being deprived of oxygen. Babies are sometimes neglected in hospitals when the medical team fails to attach a continuous heart rate monitor to the mother to view the baby’s heartbeat. Other times, the medical team is not properly trained in fetal heart rate interpretation and they miss signs of distress and oxygen deprivation in the baby.
Monitoring a fetal heart rate is a very simple procedure. When a mother is in labor and / or is experiencing signs of placental abruption, uterine rupture or any other potentially serious complication, fetal heart rate monitoring should immediately begin and preparations for a potential C-section delivery should be initiated.
PREGNANT WOMEN HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO ADEQUATE MEDICAL CARE WHILE IN PRISON
Prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate medical care while in prison, and this includes care of a pregnant woman and her baby. It is not the standard of care – nor is it “adequate” – to ignore signs of labor and major utero-placental problems. When labor and signs of pregnancy complications occur, continuous monitoring of the baby’s heart rate must begin. As monitoring is being initiated, the mother must be transported to an adequate place to deliver her baby. “Adequate” in both hospitals and prisons means that the facility must have the capacity to quickly deliver the baby by cesarean (C-section) delivery, should the baby get in trouble. When a baby is in distress, which includes being deprived of oxygen, signs of this will be evident on the fetal heart rate monitor. If a baby is in distress and a quick, safe vaginal delivery cannot take place, a prompt C-section must occur in order to get the baby out of the distressful conditions. A delay in delivery can cause the baby to be deprived of oxygen for too long, which can result in death or permanent brain damage and conditions such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy.
The Wichita County jail violated Nicole’s right to adequate medical care by acting negligently in the care of her and her baby. The nurse who was taking care of Nicole had an expired medical license. This nurse, who was provided to the private jail system by a private prison healthcare firm, did not even have a basic understanding of appropriate care for a woman during the latter part of pregnancy and through labor and delivery. Nor did the nurse exhibit appropriate CPR skills.
Indeed, Nicole was not only deprived of her constitutional right to adequate medical care, but her human rights were also violated. She had to deliver her baby by herself on nothing more than a mat in solitary confinement. She had to watch he daughter be born lifeless because nobody was paying any attention to the baby and mother’s well-being. Then Nicole remained in her cell alone to deliver the placenta while her baby was taken to the hospital. Nicole was only taken to a medical facility after enduring the horrific experience of profuse bleeding, pain, and delivering a lifeless baby (and being left alone afterwards).
Nicole is currently suing Wichita County, the sheriff, the private prison healthcare firm, and the unlicensed nurse.
REITER & WALSH: ADVOCATES FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN FOR OVER 25 YEARS
Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a birth injury law firm that has been helping children throughout the country for over two decades. Attorney Jesse Reiter, the president and co-founder of the firm, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for 25 years. He is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best law firms in the nation. The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).
If your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), intellectual disabilities or developmental delays, the award winning attorneys at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation. Our award winning lawyers are available to speak with you 24 / 7.
VIDEO: PLACENTAL ABRUPTION, UTERINE RUPTURE & HYPOXIC ISCHEMIC ENCEPHALOPATHY (HIE)
Watch a video of Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer Jesse Reiter discussing some of the conditions that can cause a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain during delivery and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). These conditions include a ruptured uterus, placental abruption, the cord wrapped around the baby’s neck (nuchal cord) and a delayed emergency cesarean (C-section) delivery.