Black Resident Dies After Childbirth, Highlights Tragic Trend

Chaniece Wallace, MD, a chief pediatric resident at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, died on October 24 after complications from preeclampsia 4 days after giving birth prematurely by cesarean delivery, according to her husband, Anthony Wallace.

Their daughter, Charlotte Wallace, was born on October 20 weighing 4.5 pounds. She entered care in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Anthony Wallace told Chaniece’s story on a GoFundMe page, writing: “On October 20th, 2020 [Chaniece’s] doctors informed us that she was developing symptoms of preeclampsia.” He added that she had a ruptured liver and high blood pressure and that her kidney function was declining.

“Chaniece fought with every piece of strength, courage, and faith she had available,” he continued.

In announcing Wallace’s death, Riley Hospital for Children wrote that “it is with grievous and broken hearts that we announce the loss of one of our beloved friends, colleagues, and co-chiefs.” Chaniece “suffered postpartum complications after delivering a healthy 35wk baby girl. [S]he received excellent care at her delivery hospital by a complete and equally devastated healthcare team.”

Fellow co–chief resident Eric Raynal, MD, told Medscape Medical News that Chaniece’s preeclampsia “developed unusually rapidly. It was captured immediately and was especially severe,” he said.

“I think everyone in our community and the medical community that took care of her while hospitalized is at a loss for why her case of preeclampsia was so severe and did not improve after she delivered her baby, Charlotte,” he said.

“As physicians, we try to find answers and reason for everything we do in our practice of medicine, and it is so immensely frustrating when families ask us to explain things that are unexplainable,” Raynal said.

The statement from Riley Hospital said Wallace had completed her pediatrics residency in June and was beginning to explore career options as a general outpatient pediatrician.

“[H]er future impact, sure to be expansive, was taken away from her all too suddenly,” the announcement said.

Black Women at Triple the Risk for Maternal Death

Clinicians commented on social media that Wallace’s death highlights a grim statistic in healthcare in the United States: Black, Native American, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, according to recent Centers for Disease Control data.

Newborn hospitalist Shawnté James, MD, mourned Wallace’s death on Twitter, saying, “Childbirth isn’t safe for Black Women in America. This is crushing.”

Rachel Vreeman, MD, added: “Heart-broken over a new loss: a female pediatrician at a great academic medical center, with the same terrible pregnancy complication that I had. Except she is Black and she died.”

Raynal said, “What we know and can verify is that preeclampsia is more common in Black women. We would not say Chaniece’s preeclampsia and preeclampsia in women in general is ‘preventable.’ “

Raynal said Wallace was well aware of her risk and that they had talked privately about it routinely. She had also discussed the risks with her medical team.

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