Miracle baby? There’s nothing miraculous about a baby who dies because of out of hospital birth.

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The media loves a heartwarming story, but calling Baby Boy Accurso a “miracle baby” isn’t merely misguided; it’s grotesque.

People Magazine claims ‘Miracle’ Baby Dies Just 18 Days After His 37-Year-Old Mom Suddenly Died During Childbirth:

Just 18 days after his mother suddenly died during childbirth, a newborn died on Friday after his family had to make the unbearable decision to take him off life support, the family’s pastor confirmed…

Matthew Sr. continued, noting that while it was an agonizing decision, he still considered his son a “living miracle,” as he managed to defeat the odds and open his eyes, breathe on his own and pump blood through his heart.

But the death of a baby and mother isn’t a heartwarming miracle story; it’s a tragedy possibly precipitated by the mother’s choice to give birth outside the hospital.

The death of a baby and mother isn’t a heartwarming miracle story; it’s a tragedy possibly caused by the choice to give birth outside the hospital.

What People Magazine fails to appreciate is that Baby Accurso’s death was almost certainly preventable and his mother’s death may have been preventable, too.

Chiropractor Matt Accurso Sr. has eagerly, repeatedly and at great length shared his “miracle” spin on what is possibly a preventable double tragedy that did not have to happen, but he’s been surprisingly short on the details of the birth itself.

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…Matthew is a living miracle…

Without an ounce of oxygen he made it in an ambulance to an emergency room, through an emergency c-section and into a NICU. Matthew then defied all odds and opened his eyes, breathed on his own, pumped blood through his strong heart …

I cannot be sure, but it sounds like a home or birth center birth gone wrong. There was another detail that strongly suggested to me that this was possibly a homebirth. According to the local TV station’s first report of the story:

Though the CDC report [on maternal mortality] said more than half of those deaths are preventable, Accurso’s family said it was a very rare and unpreventable medical emergency that took her life.

Before an autopsy, it is almost impossible to know the definitive cause of a maternal death and whether or not it was preventable. Final results from an autopsy can take weeks to firmly establish the details. Yet this father insisted he already knew, though he provided no evidence from medical personnel or tests. In my experience, that is often a sign of defensiveness over choosing an out of hospital birth that results in death.

What kind of unpreventable medical emergencies result in the death of the mother?

These include a ruptured uterus as a result of a previous C-section, amniotic fluid embolus, stroke or heart attack. All can be unpreventable and deadly, but there’s an important caveat: death is NOT inevitable; most can be treated in hospitals with varying degrees of success. Even amniotic fluid embolus, the most deadly among these events, has a 40% survival rate in a hospital. Moreover, the baby’s life can typically be saved by immediate C-section.

In other words, it’s not clear that the death of this mother and her baby was either unpreventable or inevitable. In fact, the details of the story suggest that the baby almost certainly could have been saved.

Lauren Accurso stopped breathing at home. Had she been in the hospital, she could have been intubated immediately and possibly there would have been minimal disruption of oxygen to her brain and her baby’s brain. A C-section could have been performed quickly and the baby might not have sustained any brain injury, in contrast to the devastating brain damage that occurred during the time it took to reach the hospital.

Lauren Accurso died because she reached the emergency room AFTER her life might have been saved. Had the same precipitating event taken place in the hospital, there was a very real chance of saving her life.

There is nothing “miraculous” about the fact that the baby survived as long as he did. It was entirely due to medical professionals. It was the result of tremendous, ongoing efforts of ambulance personnel, emergency room physicians and nurses, obstetricians, neonatologists and a massive amount of high tech medical care. The fact that it didn’t succeed wasn’t their fault. That lies in the choice to give birth far away from lifesaving medical professionals and their technology.

Hospitals are like infant car seats. Most of the time they aren’t needed because most driving trips do not involve an accident. But when an accident occurs they are invaluable.

Would anyone call it a miracle if a mother fails to put a baby in a car seat and that baby is subsequently ejected through the windshield onto the pavement? I doubt it. Would anyone call it a miracle if the baby survives to arrive at the hospital profoundly brain damaged? I doubt it. Would anyone call it a miracle if the baby eventually dies from the brain damage sustained by not being in a car seat? I doubt it.

So why are we pretending that this very likely preventable death is anything other than a horrific tragedy?

  • Momof2

    One of my friends died from an amniotic embolism in the hospital. It can happen to any birthing woman. Many studies show women without risks of complications have healthier births at home. It’s the model in the UK and many other countries. Hospital birth isn’t required to have a healthy baby. With the rising rates of c/sections, unnecessary interventions, and the fact the US has the worst maternal death rates in the developed world, women are better off staying home or going to a birthing center to give birth. You using this poor woman’s story to further your agenda is shameful.

    • MaineJen

      No thank you.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      And sober people die in car accidents, too.

      You should contact MADD and let them know how shameful they are for using drunk driving death stories to further their agenda.

  • Haleigh

    SOB, what are you thoughts on women knowing that homebirth is not safe but choosing so anyways? Her body, her choice? Why/why not?

    • AnnaPDE

      Dr Amy will probably explain in detail, but she’s repeatedly stated on this site that it’s “her body, her choice” and therefore women should have the right to go for homebirth, but that she considers it a very bad choice.

  • Mickey2942

    I have to agree with this. Women don’t normally die during childbirth at a hospital, when things go south, they have an emergency C-section. The very lack of information in the news articles about the actual reason this woman and her baby are dead has been hidden.

    • Momof2

      Have you seen the maternal-fetal death rates for the US? I suggest you look into them before claiming women don’t usually die during childbirth at hospitals.

      • Mickey2942

        Sure, compare the numbers for maternal death rates for home births compared with hospital births for the same age range.

      • MaineJen

        Until emergency c sections can be performed at home (hint: never), NO THANK YOU.

  • Sarah

    What a desperately awful outcome.

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    From my dealings with chiropractors in general I know that many believe OOH birth to be safe and some are rather proud of the number of babies that have been born in hotels during the conferences and conventions.

    What scares me is that my son is in school to become a chiropractor and I don’t doubt that when the time comes he and his wife may choose OOH birth. Hopefully my DIL’s mom will have some sway and convince them to have a hospital birth.

    I don’t agree with the “science and evidence” he says is being taught, nor his contention that chiropractors are primary care physicians.

    • rational thinker

      Chiropractors are certanly not primary care physicians. Do they tell them this in school?

      Just in case they do ever have an OOH birth just say you want to be there to support them, then if something seems like its going wrong you can call 911.

      • mabelcruet

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f949b0dbb3207a74e0f8777d37fd4742c228cbfc8f35909ae74af3979daf9b86.png

        I think chiropractic is somewhere around the peak of Mt Stupid when it comes to general medical knowledge.

        • Momof2

          You people are sadly misinformed. Chiropractors go to medical school just like physicians. They actually get about 200 more hours of instruction than MDs, though it’s focused more on bones, joints, and muscles, because that’s how they treat people.

          • swbarnes2

            You really think that you look intelligent telling a real live pathologist (that is, someone who went to medical school) that chiropractors go to medical school when it’s plainly obvious they don’t? They have their own schools, they don’t get MDs. And if they spent 1000,000 hours learning garbage that would not make them more knowledgeable than doctors who went to medical school.

            Swimming in woo is like swimming in sh*t. You really have no idea whatsoever how awful you appear to others, do you?

          • mabelcruet

            A medical degree in the UK lasts 5 years. The first two years comprise 42 weeks of studying, 5 days a week, 8 hours of formal tuition, lectures, laboratory sessions, tutorials etc per day. The next 3 years are 46 weeks, 5 days a week, generally 8 hours per day but frequently longer because we take part in ward rounds, clinics, theatre sessions etc and finish when they finish. In final year we are also expected to shadow qualified doctors and stay overnight doing on call. After graduation there are then 2 years of apprenticeship training (called foundation years). Older doctors, like me, did a 1 in 3 rota, meaning we were working full time and every 3rd night we were on call. I averaged around 100 hours a week that year. Once you’ve finished your apprenticeship years, you start your specialist training in your chosen speciality. You are working, but also studying for your fellowship exams (the equivalent of USA board). The number of years this training takes depends on the speciality you choose-mine took 7 years, because I did 5 years of adult pathology, then decided to subspecialise in paediatric pathology. I qualified as a consultant (like a USA attending) at age 32, 14 years after starting medical school.

            Your claims that chiropractic train longer hours than MDs is nonsense, baseless, and frankly untrue.

          • mabelcruet

            And as for the length of time studying bone, muscle and joints, this is spread over the 5 year degree. In first year we did anatomy, which included dissection of cadavers (first term was upper limb, second term lower limb, 3rd term chest and abdomen, first term in 2nd year was head and neck). 8 hours a week was assigned for dissection working out at about 96 hours per term formal dissection, and then another 4 hours per week on lectures and tutorials about anatomy. In first year we also do histology (what normal tissues look like microscopically which included bone, muscle, fascia, connective tissue, joint and synovium). First year still-we do physiology, biochemistry, statistics and embryology all of which would include every body system including muscle bone and joint. 2nd year was more anatomy, more physiology, pathology (what diseased tissues look like microscopically), therapeutics and pharmacology, more biochemistry, epidemiology, introduction to general practice, genetics, epidemiology. 3rd to 5th years are centred on the various specialties: general medicine, general surgery, geriatrics, neurology, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopedics, dermatology, anaesthetics, ENT, cardiology, respiratory medicine etc. The time set aside for orthopedics was 6 weeks in 4th year and 4 weeks in 5th year working about at about 400 hours of formal tuition, but not including all the hours spent on muscle, bone and joints in the first 3 years in anatomy, histology and no on.

            I can go into this level of detail for every single speciality that we studied. Chiropractic education is in no way equivalent to medical training, as much as you would like to believe it. Anyone attending a chiropractic with a genuine medical issue is at risk. There have been cases in the UK where chiropractic practitioners have been found criminally liable for harming patients because they misled the patient into believing they were being treated by a proper doctor when they were no such thing. Pretending that you are a medical practitioner when you are not is a crime in the UK to protect the public from being preyed on by vultures. I’m sure there are some chiropractic who operate within their area of expertise, but they cannot diagnose and they cannot prescribe.

      • no longer drinking the koolaid

        In a conversation a short time ago he mentioned that he was studying pelvic anatomy and said something about doing pelvic exams and Pap smears. I asked why that was included in the curriculum and his reply was that it was something they needed as primary care physicians.
        And, thanks for the suggestion about being at the labor/birth in case something goes wrong.

        • rational thinker

          I could be wrong but I would think it is unethical and possibly illegal for a chiropractor to do a pelvic exam. This must be stressing you out. I did not think chiropractors were taking it that far.

          • Chiropractors are NOT MDs. Frankly, I think you should be doing your utmost to dissuade him from pursuing this quackery.

  • demodocus

    Poor mite and his poor deluded mother. That’s a very high price to pay for a foolhardy decision

  • Friday

    Saw this on the news and just didn’t feel like it passed the smell test. Glad to see some well rounded discussion on the matter, this story should be presented as a warning to all the crunchy moms out there. So sad for the children.

    • rational thinker

      A warning is wasted on those people due to the mentality of “that wont happen to me” that they all seem to have.

    • sdsures

      These stories are ALREADY presented as warnings to all the crunchy moms out there. But they never listen, even as the death toll increases.

  • guest

    I don’t know if a homebirth was attempted, but on the family’s social media pages, they claim the mother had no previous signs of illness, and died of a “sudden, unpreventable, and extremely rare medical emergency”

    A mom of four experiencing the first signs of labor probably would still be home regardless of whether or not she wanted to give birth in a hospital. Unless you are high risk, most hospitals won’t admit you until contractions really get going.

    So I am hesitant to assume that this was a homebirth gone wrong.

    • Anna

      How would they know it was an AFE so soon after the fact? I may just be cynical and jaded but it is ALWAYS the go-to explanation for out of hospital maternal death. ALWAYS. Despite being quite rare every time a Mother dies out of hospital the homebirth community just says “AFE, case closed”. Thats why we’re all so suspicious. The Father was probably told by a CPM that it was AFE, simply because she knows that the survival rate is low. It may well be that it was an AFE, in hospital or out, but wolf has been cried so many times already.

      • mabelcruet

        The diagnosis of AFE isn’t easy even at autopsy. The mum is usually resuscitated, admitted to ICU and ventilated. They often develop disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) which makes them bleed almost uncontrollably, and you see fibrin clots in the capillaries. They classically get severe pulmonary oedema, and often get a superimposed pneumonia on top if they are ventilated for any length of time. The diagnosis depends on finding squames (flakes of skin) in the mum’s lungs microscopically, but they can be hard to find if there are ventilation-related changes, infection, oedema and pulmonary bleeding around.

        At this stage, it sounds like the diagnosis of AFE is being made purely on her clinical features. It causes shock-very low blood pressure, poor circulation, etc and that leads to oxygen-deprivation so they get ischaemic changes in the heart muscle and arrhythmia. They get respiratory symptoms, Trouble is, these features can overlap with other conditions such as sepsis and pulmonary embolus and AFE is essentially a diagnosis of exclusion. The timing of onset helps somewhat-AFE is far more rapid in onset and many women die within the first couple of hours, which is too quick for sepsis. But anaphylaxis or PE could still potentially be in the running. I doubt we’ll ever get to hear what her true cause of death was-it sounds as though the father is determined to blame AFE for the reasons you’ve suggested-it makes it easier to believe that she would have died no matter where she delivered, so it wasn’t homebirth to blame.

    • rational thinker

      “Unless you are high risk, most hospitals won’t admit you until contractions really get going.”
      That is not always the case. I was admitted at 1cm.
      Also this is sounding to me like this was not just a home birth but possibly a free birth. I have not heard a midwife mentioned at all and dad is a chiropractor so that makes me even more suspicious that it may have been a free birth.

      • demodocus

        Me too, though mine were a bit different. My water breaking was the first sign of labor with Kid1, and Kid2 was kicked out for bp reasons when i’d gone in because Kid1 have jumped on my gravity belly

        • MaineJen

          Same here. My water breaks hours before labor starts, so with my 1st I was admitted pre-labor and ended up being induced, with my 2nd my contractions were 5 mins apart when I got to the hospital. They don’t always send you home.

    • Friday

      Her advanced maternal age would certainly classify her as high risk.

      • guest

        I had my first baby 37, my second at 39, my third at 41. I had consistent prenatal care throughout all three pregnancies, overseen by an OB. I registered at the hospital my OB delivers at prior to my due dates, and took all of the available childbirth preparation classes offered there. I was told explicitly by both my doctor, by the hospital representatives, and by the admitting nurses that I would not be admitted until my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and I appeared to be in active labor.

        I don’t know what kind of posh hospitals you are familiar with, but in my community, with a shortage of resources and beds, they will do a quick check and just send women home if they are not in active labor.

        I see a lot of people on here complaining that we cannot give this woman the benefit of the doubt because we do not have enough information about her case. It also doesn’t appear that we have enough information to condemn her for her own death and that of her child, but everyone seems eager to do so.

        • Friday

          Congratulations on your successful geriatric pregnancies, and kudos for seeking medical care. No one is eager to condemn this woman, her info it seems was given, perhaps by friends or family, to her local news and then proliferated by the viral machine. And her story raised more questions than answers. The circumstances of her and her child’s death are being described in flowery and sentimental language, understandably, and it tugs at people’s heartstrings, but people with discernment and critical thinking skills will think, there’s something (a lot) that’s not being said. And we can read between the lines. By choosing to not give birth in a medical setting, this woman gambled with her baby’s and her own life, and she lost. That is sad. Other women who are also willing to bet the house on Mom Nature and gamble with their lives need to know that this is a possible outcome. It is very likely that the testing and monitoring that is performed on high risk mothers would have caught whatever caused the complication that resulted in death. She might be home with her children now, and we would never even know this woman’s name if she had just gone in hospital to deliver instead of being crunchy.

        • mabelcruet

          Are you UK based or elsewhere? The Royal College of Obs and Gynae here recommends that older mothers (i.e over 35 years at their first pregnancy) are offered induction at 39-40 weeks. You’d technically be a high risk mother simply by virtue of your age, so there wouldn’t be any issue about not coming in until your contractions are 3-5 minutes, they’d admit you early on and monitor.

          https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/scientific-impact-papers/sip_34.pdf

    • AnnaPDE

      Hi guest, from the information given in this article, I’d agree.
      But I saw the original Facebook post and then some others from the dad, and then had a look at his business website, “superhumanentrepreneur.com”.
      The guy’s a total quack — he trained as a chiro, pretends to be a doctor, and promotes “biohacking” services to the gullible. The whole creepily over-positive “should have been impossible” language is a very toned down version of his default “doctors know nothing but look at what a superhuman you can be if you ignore them” kind of style.
      So yes, unfortunately very good chance of a homebirth attempt there. His business partner recently bragged of one on FB, too.

      • rational thinker

        I think it was a free birth attempt, or dad was going to deliver baby himself. Judging on dads personality alone I would bet the whole time she was at home in labor is on video tape. Cause if everything had gone well they can post a video to brag about as most of these nutcases do.

  • mabelcruet

    From a pathology point of view, there are very few conditions that can cause sudden and unexpected maternal death-I’ve been involved with several maternal deaths and those that happened suddenly (as opposed to mums with sepsis who died after some time) were mums with an amniotic fluid embolus, an aortic dissection, sub-arachnoid haemorrhage/berry aneurysm rupture and massive haemorrhage due to placenta percreta (which wasn’t entirely sudden as they had time to transfuse 64 units of blood and fresh frozen plasma). The amniotic fluid embolus baby survived, the mum with the SAH collapsed crossing the road-she had a peri-mortem section but the baby only lived for an hour. The mum with aortic dissection-baby survived, had neonatal cooling and never came my way so I’m assuming the best, and the placenta percreta baby also survived (planned section because of placenta previa, the degree of percreta only became apparent at
    delivery).

    Maternal deaths are horrendous to deal with-in the UK they are generally considered sudden and unexpected and as such get reported to the coroner, all maternal deaths are, which means an autopsy is undertaken in all cases. There is a very long standing continuous reporting and audit system in the UK for maternal deaths which has been going for 50 years, and thankfully the trend is relentlessly downwards, we see fewer and fewer every decade. Ideally these should not be happening at all, but at least the ones that do happen are fully investigated. It’s not appropriate to say ‘well, some people die and there’s nothing we can do, it wasn’t the home birth that killed her’. Yes, she might still have died in hospital, but it would only have happened after many hours of medical resuscitation attempts and her chance of survival would have been massively higher in hospital as opposed to home or stand alone birth centre.

  • PeggySue

    I wondered if the Mom simply had a collapse at home in late pregnancy–no way to prevent that really, just a tragedy–but when the article referred to death in childbirth, it sounds more as if she was in labor, and more concern for homebirth problems. A very sad story indeed, especially for the three children who went through this experience and lost their mother and baby brother.

    • swbarnes2

      I bet a lot of things that would cause a pregnant woman to suddenly collapse would be detected before disaster by an OB giving regular check-ups. This woman might not have gotten those.

      • mabelcruet

        Absolutely. At the very least, she would have had ultrasound to identify where the placenta is-a low lying placenta is a risk factor for haemorhage. Placental abruption/retroplacental haemorrhage could result in both maternal and infant death (although its usually just baby), and it can’t really be anticipated or prevented, but it can be associated with maternal hypertension so if she was being monitored for that then they would have had a low index of suspicion for bringing her in at the first sign of pain or bleeding.

        Much of obstetric care is preventative medicine-any one getting consultant led care in the UK is generally at higher risk of something adverse happening (older mum, mum with higher BMI, mum with poor obstetric history, diabetes, hypertension etc etc). But because they are monitored far more closely and there is a low threshold for intervention, outcomes are generally as good as the ‘low risk’ pregnancies.

  • Resident

    I was curious as well about the story as it’s so rare for healthy mother AND term baby to die but couldn’t find any details. It does suspiciously sound like home birth gone wrong though these people are often so deep in the woo they don’t want to give home birth bad publicity.

  • Mel

    God, these pictures of term babies on life-support after home-births gone wrong kill me.

    My 26 week preemie never looked as flat as these poor babies do. My kid was more alive at 1 pound, 5 oz than these poor fat term mites.

    My son would happily (and loudly) suck on his endotracheal tube – not have an open, slack jaw. We had to disengage his hands from his endotracheal tube because he liked to hold it and pull on it. When given colostrum swabs, he’d clamp down on the swab to prevent me from taking it out before he was finished sucking out all the milk. He moved his limbs – to grab his wires, to fight free of the evil swaddling blanket and to rub the fabric covering over his eyes.

    My son was in a fight for his life – but he could still fight…and sleep….and play. Reading parents’ updates where they are excited because their kid is showing rudimentary reflexes like grasping, opening their eyes or digesting food makes my heart ache – because the parents don’t know – or can’t handle – the truth of how badly a kid is doing that “moving limbs without rigidity” is considered a good thing.

    • PeggySue

      Yeah….

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I think the father has to say that the baby’s a miracle. It’s part of his narrative. He wanted to show that he was superior to the “establishment” by doing a home birth (probably). That didn’t work out so well. But rather than admit that he’s wrong and face the horror of knowing that he contributed to his wife’s and child’s death, he comes up with the story, “They said the baby would never pump blood on his own, but he did! It’s a miracle! Look how much more I know than the Evil Medical Establishment.” So anything, anything at all, that looks even a little better than the prediction is touted as a triumph. Because something has to be.

    • mayonnaisejane

      Fat term mites?

      • Mel

        Eh, I often say when I see a itsy-bitsy baby just out of the NICU at a follow-up appointment that my son was never that tiny. This in spite of the fact that my son was certainly that small and smaller at various times.

        What can I say? I turn into a gooey-ball of mush when confronted by babies… 🙂

  • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

    My mom had a ruptured uterus and transverse baby and emergency C-section, in 1966. (I know we are not aware yet of the mothers cause of death) The difference being my mother delivered in the hospital. She lost her uterus but kept her life and her baby’s life(and brain cells) and my brother is now as charmingly obnoxious as ever.

  • rational thinker

    This man is sick, losing mom and baby is not a miracle. I see he is a chiropractor so that explains a little about the thought process of this guy.