On April 12, 2016, Kira Dixon Johnson and her husband Charles Johnson IV arrived at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles for a scheduled cesarean section. The couple was excited to be welcoming their second son Langston to the world. What was supposed to be a moment of joy instead turned into tragedy after the 17-minute c-section ended in Kira Dixon Johnson’s untimely death.
Now her husband fights to shed light on what he says is a culture of racism at the Los Angeles hospital which resulted in his wife bleeding to death from a routine procedure.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that my wife would be here today and be here Sunday celebrating Mother’s Day with her boys if she was a Caucasian woman,” Johnson said during a press conference.
“The reality is that on April 12, 2016, when we walked into Cedars-Sinai hospital for what we expected to be the happiest day of our lives, the greatest risk factor that Kira Dixon Johnson faced was racism.”
On Wednesday, May 4, Charles Johnson IV filed a civil rights lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. According to the suit, hospital officials ignored signs Kira Johnson was bleeding internally. Her husband pleaded with nurses for his wife to be readmitted, but was told his wife ‘wasn’t a priority.’ According to their attorney Nicholas Rowley, when Kira Johnson died, nearly 90% of her blood was later found in her stomach. Her bladder had been cut and was never sutured properly.
Rowley also questioned how the hospital handled the procedure from the very beginning.
“This is sloppy. It was butchery,” Rowley told the AP. “It shocked everybody that we deposed, all the health care providers, even the head of (obstetrics) here, the head of labor and delivery, looked at it and said ‘No, I’ve never seen one done that fast.’”
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has pushed back against the maternal health lawsuit, saying in a statement they reject, ‘any mischaracterization of [their] culture and values.”
Since Kira Johnson’s death, Charles Johnson and his mother, TV’s Judge Glenda Hatchett, have been fighting tirelessly to help Black women navigate the dangers of childbirth.
To honor his wife’s legacy, Johnson started a nonprofit called 4Kira4Moms. The organization fights for improved maternal outcomes through advocacy and coalition building, provides peer support to victims’ families, and promotes the idea that maternal mortality should be viewed, and discussed as a human rights issue.
Johnson has also testified twice before Congress advocating in support of important legislation including, the Preventing Maternal Death Act of 2018, and the Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021.
Kira’s mother-in-law, Judge Hatchett also participated in a congressional briefing on maternal mortality. She consistently uses her platform to bring attention and awareness to the problem that disproportionately affects black women.
According to the CDC, in 2019 the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 44.0 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.5 times the rate for white women (17.9) and 3.5 times the rate for Hispanic women (12.6).
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