published Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Fort Oglethorpe woman files complaint with Erlanger in preemie's death

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A Fort Oglethorpe woman has filed a formal complaint with Erlanger Health System after she says she gave birth to a premature baby less than a day after being sent home from the hospital.

The baby, a little girl named Sophia, lived about two hours after she was born at 23 weeks.

"The person who took the complaint told me this should never have happened," Valerie Simpson said. "I'm just hoping my story will help one person [in a similar situation] to push harder until someone listens to her. It could have been avoided if they had taken me more seriously."

Erlanger spokeswoman Jennifer Homa said the hospital could not discuss Simpson's specific case, citing patient privacy laws.

Homa also declined to say how many formal complaints are filed against Erlanger each year.

In a statement emailed on Wednesday, Lynn Whisman, Erlanger's chief operating officer/chief nursing officer, said the hospital encourages patients and family members to voice their concerns while they are hospitalized so they can be addressed.

"As with most hospitals nationwide, Erlanger is committed to addressing concerns or complaints at the patient's bedside (or during treatment) to ensure quality medical care," Whisman wrote.

Simpson, 23 and pregnant with her first child, said she began having cramps on Jan. 16 when she was 23 weeks pregnant. The next day, when they continued, she went to the emergency room at Erlanger since the hospital has a neonatal intensive care unit.

At Erlanger, Simpson was admitted into labor and delivery, where she said several doctors and nurses checked her out and did tests.

Despite two shots of morphine, Simpson said she could still feel the cramps, which were three to four minutes apart and lasted more than half a minute each.

Doctors told her she had a bacterial infection. Tests to see if she was leaking amniotic fluid were negative, and she showed no changes to her cervix, she said.

But she and her boyfriend, Jason Stansberry, still were concerned about being sent home. Simpson said she knew something was wrong.

Her water broke about 12 hours after she was sent home and, a short time later, she gave birth to Sophia in her bathroom. The two were rushed to Erlanger by ambulance, where Sophia later died.

Simpson said she knows that, even if her baby had been born at the hospital, odds against Sophia's survival would have been long.

"But if she would have been at the hospital, she would have had the best chance possible; I would have given her everything I could have," Simpson said. "But she wasn't given that chance."

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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