Allen Coats and his fiancée Rachel Melancon say they will be bringing a malpractice lawsuit against their obstetrician, Dr. George Backardjiev whom they allege caused their baby’s death when he crushed the child’s skull with forceps during a complicated delivery on December 28th. The Medical Center of Southeast Texas transferred baby Olivia Marie Coats to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital for follow-on care where she died five days later on the 2nd of January.
In an ABC News interview Mr. Coats stated that he was unwilling to speak about the tragedy so close to the loss of his child. “I can’t bring it to myself to talk to people at the moment—sorry.”
The family’s friend, Cinda Castle, said that everything was “perfect” up until the delivery, “from ultrasounds and doctor visits and everything during the delivery process right before the forceps was used.” Castle reported that the delivery was difficult and the doctor resorted to using forceps to pull the child free, and that during the process, “Her skull had been crushed by the forceps and her spine twisted and severed.”
Baby Olivia’s grandmother, Angie Coats, said that the family requested an ultrasound prior to her Christmas Due date because of the baby’s large size. Ms. Coats, from Nederland, Texas, stated that her daughter-in-law Rachel was very small, just under five feet tall and about 95 pounds prior to her pregnancy.
“Rachel had a normal, healthy pregnancy,” reported Coats, but she asked the doctor for a Caesarian Section. Present at the delivery she quotes Rachel asking the doctor for the intervention surgery: “Can you please give me a C-section? This baby isn’t coming out of me.”
The doctor recommended against the C-section remembers Coats. “No, you don’t want a C-section,” Dr. Backardjiev, “You’ll have a scar.”
The baby’s grandmother recounts the long delivery process. “The baby’s heart rate kept going up.” She said that the doctor kept saying “one more hour,” but that it took 18 hours for the delivery. Coats describes the mother as exhausted from the effort of the prolonged delivery and said that she had a temperature of 103 degrees. After five hours Rachel began to push but “the baby wasn’t even in the birth canal.”
At one point Angie Coats alleges that the baby was face up. She recalls that the Dr. attempted to turn the baby by hand but that he was unsuccessful. “When he couldn’t do that,” she said, he used “small forceps,” to pull the child out. She said that the doctor braced his foot on Rachel’s bed for leverage and that after some effort the forceps pierced the infant’s head.
He was turning and twisting and she would never come out. He put the forceps one way and the other. When he touched the top and side of the skull, we heard a pop, like clay cracking in pottery and heard her skull crush.
Baby Olivia was eventually delivered via emergency C-section but Angie Coats remembers the family thinking it was too late. “My son said, ‘I don’t think my baby is alive.’” Medical staff immediately examined Olivia and reassured the family that she was alive, after which she was transported to Memorial Hermann in Houston. She was eventually taken off of life support and given to the family who bathed her and waited with her until her heart stop beating. The family’s suit will allege that it was the use of forceps that caused their baby’s untimely death.
In an emotional Facebook post Rachel candidly revealed her experience:
I felt her pulled out of me and the room was silent. No crying baby and they told Allen to leave the room. That’s the last I remember before waking up to my baby girl lifeless and a transport team flying her to Houston saying this is common and she would be back in a few days.
In a further post Rachel says that her baby was given a full body exam to “see what caused her injuries,” but that it was clear what the cause was. “By looking at her it’s obvious and it doesn’t take anything other than looking at her head.”
Medical Center Southeast CEO Matt Roberts said in a statement that Olivia’s death “rips at our hearts,” and that the hospital administration “initiated a review of all aspects of this case,” immediately upon hearing about the baby’s condition.
The family has since made a public call for an end to forceps deliveries nationally and their Facebook page has received more than 20,000 likes, but doctors warn not to rush to judgment. ABC’s Dr. Jennifer L. Ashton said that though forceps delivery can be risky, “In the right hands they can save a baby’s life.” “It takes a lot of skill,” she said, “to perform a forceps delivery,” adding that young obstetricians are usually trained in vacuum extraction.
Dr. J Pieternelle, an Obstetrician and gynecologist with Southeast Texas OB/GYN Associates agrees. “You don’t want to overreact because forceps can be helpful under the right circumstances.”
The baby’s parents agreed to donate Olivia’s valve for the sake of another newborn and to have tissue donated for skin grafts. Angie Coats believes that something good will come of this tragedy and that despite their child’s death Allen and Rachel are “doing great.”
In their pursuit for forceps-free childbirth nation-wide, Ms. Coats sees that “they want to help someone else,” and ensure that other parents won’t have to suffer what their family has been through.
“I have never seen so much strength and courage in two people in my whole life.”
By Matt Darjany
WHAS Channel 11