Detailed below is a description of the delivery process and the intense recovery I endured after giving birth to my third son. Please be aware that some of the details might be triggering to some. I share my experience in hopes that it helps hold doctors accountable for their actions and reaffirms that if you are someone who went through something similar, you are not alone.
I was a patient of Dr. Canon in 2019. I met with him while on my rotation through the practice for my prenatal care. I witnessed slurred speech, dilated pupils, and a lack of professionalism during my exam, which lasted maybe 5 minutes. I immediately called my husband after the appointment, explaining that I thought Dr. Cannon was high or on some substance (Please note, I have a background in clinical social work and community mental health and have worked with many clients with severe mental health and substance use disorders).
I was second-guessing using the practice altogether, as I felt very uncomfortable with my observations and experience; I even reached out to my previous doctor to see if I could transfer just weeks before my due date. Sadly, he had retired. At my next appointment, I decided to voice my concern directly with my primary OBGYN. I explicitly said that Dr. Cannon appeared high or on a substance and had slurred speech and dilated pupils. I also explained that the appointment was unprofessional and extremely rushed, and no real exam seemed to be performed. He informed me that I was incorrect in my assumption and that Dr. Canon had likely just been tired from a night shift at the hospital. He continued on, claiming that I was fine to proceed with my scheduled c-section, during which both doctors would be present. Despite my reservations, I felt that if *primary doctor* was not concerned, I shouldn’t be either.
On the day of my delivery, I only met with the nurses and *primary doctor* before my surgery. Dr. Canon entered the operating room once I was already prepped, and the c-section was scheduled to begin. He did not introduce or announce himself to me and only spoke with *primary doctor* making small talk during the procedure.
After being wheeled into post-operating with my son, I felt like I was falling into a dark tunnel. I began to pass out multiple times, explaining that someone needed to take my son, as I was afraid I would drop him. The nurses started to think something was wrong and VERY urgently reached back out to *primary doctor*. They pushed for an ultrasound which revealed what appeared to be a large amount of blood pooling in my abdomen. I was told I had lost 1/3 of my blood and that I needed to go back into the operating room to identify where the blood was coming from. I was wheeled away from my husband and newborn son, pleading with the nurse not to let me die. I genuinely believe that the only reason I am alive is that the nurses pushed *primary doctor* to do the ultrasound. I was in surgery for three or so hours, where I was “left open so we could determine where the bleeding was coming from,” and an oncologist specialist was called in to help determine where the blood originated. I never met, spoke to, or knew the specialist’s name. From what I was told, there was never a source, and no cause was given. Other than to say there are risks in surgery, and it came “from somewhere behind your abdomen.”
Despite pushing for more information while in the hospital recovering and at some of my postnatal appointments, I was never given details, an explanation, or a cause of my experience. The impact of this experience has been more far-reaching than I could have imagined. I could not spend the first day of my son’s life with him. I was stuck in the ICU getting multiple blood transfusions and other care, all while asking for a breast pump, so I could, at the very least, provide some care and connection for my new son. I had to FaceTime my husband while he held our son and used a small syringe to feed him. I did not cry; I did not process; I did not connect with the severity of what happened. I went into a “mama bear” mentality, where I was all focused on getting to my son. I repeatedly asked the nurses what I needed to do to be well enough to be with my son and what medical markers or levels I needed to be at to go to the mother-baby unit. I was in excruciating physical pain. I did not cry until I was finally wheeled into the room where my tiny son was lying in his bassinet waiting for me. My pain and recovery were immense, and I was on bed rest for weeks. I had to navigate how to care for myself after this experience on my own with late-night research, all while trying to welcome and care for a newborn and two other small children. The professionals gave no guidance, support, or understanding of my experience.
If you’ve heard the expression, knowledge is power; then you can understand how the lack of knowledge or information can cause vulnerability and powerlessness. And when a person feels no control over their physical body, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and fear. These were feelings I had and often still do, anxiety being the primary. I expressed concern to *primary doctor* that if my body could suddenly begin bleeding, what would stop it from happening again when I was just out in the world living life? He brushed this off, saying, “it’s very unlikely,” but that I should not have any more children as the risk was high for further or similar complications. At this appointment, any plans of expanding our family were canceled. This experience impacted my relationship with my husband, as I started to have an extreme fear of getting pregnant, wondering that if I would get pregnant, would I have to terminate (which caused its fear of excessive bleeding) or keep it to term with the severe risk of death from bleeding during delivery. Mental relief came when he had a vasectomy. I also began to have multiple autoimmune issues that I never had before the blood transfusions, leading to an emergency room visit in 2021 with no explanation of the cause of my symptoms. I spent money out of pocket for bloodwork and a specialist to identify a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, something I did not have before 2019. The lower part of my stomach has a crooked scar and looks very different, making me very self-conscious.
As someone who believes in trusting your own judgment, I have struggled with feeling guilt and shame for not pushing harder not to have Dr. Canon deliver my son. I am fearful he was impaired, which impacted his ability to perform surgery. The lack of transparency by the other doctors and the hospital itself has had a long-term impact on my physical, psychological, and relational health.
I am also fearful that this went beyond alcohol abuse and was something far more sinister and perhaps even intentional in nature. I hope those whose stories need to be heard will come forward. I am hopeful that those who should be held accountable are. I am hopeful policies will change so this never happens again. I am hopeful that those doctors who seek harm to their patients are no longer able to practice.
This is just the beginning, and I am here for the process.
Sending all my love,