Opinion

A South Carolina mom’s tragedy is our call to action

In July 2018 Jodie Roberts of Lexington County went into a local hospital to give birth to her second child.

Today, however, due to problems during that visit, Roberts lies in a vegetative state in her uncle’s home, where she requires round-the-clock care from family members and faces an extremely grim future.

The transformation of Jodie Roberts from a vibrant woman to one who is now nearly brain dead, as detailed in reporter Avery Wilks’ compelling piece in The State, is a tragedy.

But it is also a call to action.

It is one that must be decisively answered by South Carolina’s medical community and our lawmakers; each must do more — now — to reduce the number of adverse results for pregnant women in this state.

And make no mistake: it’s an alarming number.

Wilks’ story noted that according to data compiled by the Medical University of South Carolina, 24 mothers die per every 100,000 live births in this state.

That’s a horrible ratio on its own.

Yet it’s dwarfed by the number of South Carolina mothers who manage to survive notable complications during or after their pregnancies.

Roberts’ case is a dramatic example: she reportedly stopped breathing for several minutes while giving birth because of problems linked to having preeclampsia — a dangerous condition that can cause a pregnant woman’s blood pressure to skyrocket, but one that’s treatable if it is recognized and addressed early on.

The reality is that what happened to Roberts was potentially preventable.

And it’s that haunting prospect that should drive the medical community and lawmakers to act.

It’s time for South Carolina’s medical community to do a better job of raising awareness among health professionals and pregnant women alike about the symptoms of treatable yet often overlooked conditions like preeclampsia.

What’s being done now obviously isn’t as extensive or effective as it needs to be.

And it’s also time for our lawmakers to truly get serious about addressing pregnancy-related deaths in this state.

They must provide the funding to allow every pregnancy-related death of a mother in South Carolina to be thoroughly investigated by the state — and to also increase the number of reviews conducted on non-fatal but adverse pregnancies like Roberts’.

Currently South Carolina investigates a portion of pregnancy-related deaths each year. And, yes, it is encouraging that at least some of these incidents are being reviewed

But “some” just isn’t good enough anymore.

When any pregnant mother dies in South Carolina, we need to know why she did so — and we also need to know why other mothers like Roberts survive complex pregnancies with severe long-term consequences.

Will it cost more money to do more investigations?

No doubt.

But it will always cost far less than the heavy price that South Carolina now pays in losing so many lives during pregnancies..

And it will always be a lower price than the one we pay when women like Jodie Roberts have their lives forever altered.

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