2012 Barnes-Jewish Hospital Report to the Community

Recordia Kennedy

Recordia Kennedy
Recordia Kennedy, St. Louis, Missouri

Top medical staff, immediate action make all the difference in rare obstetric emergency

Recordia Kennedy had had three uneventful deliveries before the birth of her son David. Always a healthy person, Recordia had no reason to suspect that David's birth would be vastly different, but it was.

Recordia seemed healthy on Feb. 26, 2012, according to her bedside nurse that day. Her delivery was progressing normally until she reached stage 2 of labor and then things started to deteriorate. She told her nurse, "I feel like I can't breathe," coughed for about 10 seconds and then became unresponsive.

A maternal fetal medicine physician arrived and delivered baby David within two minutes. Meanwhile, the acute care, obstetric nursing and anesthesia teams worked together for about 45 minutes, bringing Recordia back to life. She had suffered an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), which means that amniotic fluid, fetal cells or other substances had entered her bloodstream, causing an allergic-like reaction which stopped her heart. AFE also causes the lungs to fail and impacts multiple organs in the body. It is a rare and deadly complication, one which most women don't survive. Most survivors live with permanent neurological problems.

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Recordia Kennedy

Barbara Leighton, MD, Washington University physician and chief of obstetric anesthesiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, who was interested in AFE, had previously researched animal studies on the complication and had developed a combination of drugs that could save a life. When medical staff administered the drugs to Recordia, they worked.

Recordia was in a coma for three days and spent a few weeks in the hospital after David's birth. "It was really a traumatic episode," she says. "But everyone was such a good team and they treated me and my kids like family."

"Very few patients in the history of Barnes-Jewish Hospital have experienced an amniotic fluid embolism. What is truly remarkable about Recordia is obviously that she survived, but more importantly, she did so neurologically intact."

Juliana Verticchio, MD
resident physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital who cared for Recordia