Family has questions after woman dies following childbirth 

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By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — Nearly 200 friends and family of April Valentine gathered in front of Centinela Hospital Jan. 17 to demand justice for Valentine, who died Jan. 10 after giving birth in its maternity ward.

“Aniya is going to have to grow up without her mother,” said Mykesha Mack, Valentine’s cousin.

Mack stood on the steps of the hospital’s emergency room under a banner that named Centinela Hospital one of the “Top 100 Hospital’s in the nation.”

The family wasn’t at liberty to discuss the details surrounding her death but Valentine’s best friend Cheyenne Ne’Shay, posted on social media that Valentine complained for hours about experiencing numbness in her legs.

“We are hoping to publicize this to cause systemic change in all hospitals,” said Michael Mack, another one of Valentine’s cousin. “Her death is still under investigation so we can’t talk about that.”

The Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner’s office does not show Valentine being listed on their website for an exam.

Valentine’s friends took to social media the day after her death in shock about what happened to her.

“She and her boyfriend complained for hours to the nurses that she could not feel her legs and they told her they would not call the doctors because they would get upset,” wrote Ne’Shay, the day after Vakentine’s death. “Now my best friend is dead.” 

It wasn’t clear if the numbness was before or after her giving birth to her daughter who survived.

The issues Valentine is said to have experienced appears to resemble complications from a procedure commonly known as a C-section.

The same tragedy befell another Black woman who died after having the same procedure.

Kira Johnson was admitted to Cedars-Sinai for a planned C-section on April 12, 2016.

Her husband, Charles Johnson, described a similar situation where they pleaded with the medical staff for assistance after he noticed blood in her catheter.

He recalled being told his wife wasn’t a “priority” at the time and by the time she was taken back to the operating room it was too late. Doctors found three liters of blood in her abdomen after the C-section.

A nurse who was deposed in Johnson’s case said “when things go bad, we just ship them to ICU and if they die there, it doesn’t count against us”.

Statistics show that Black women are four to six times more likely to die from childbirth in California than white women and members of the community showed up to support bringing more awareness to the fact this continues to happen.

“I’m hearing about this injustice to Black women and its despicable its continuing to happen in 2023,” said Gloria J. Davis, with the Girls Club of Los Angeles. “It just goes to show doctors are not listening to Black women when they say they are in pain.”

Activist Najee Ali was also on hand to support the family and bring attention to Valentine’s death.

“Ms. Davis invited me to come support the family and it’s no secret that Black women are disproportionately negatively affected by poor health care and don’t get the same equity that white women get,” Ali said. 

The hospital has made no official statements about Valentine’s death.

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at emiliesaintjohn@gmail.com.

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