By Joneigh S. Khaldun, MD, MPH, FACEP
Director and Health Officer, Detroit Health Department
I am a black woman, an emergency-department physician, and the director of the Detroit Health Department. I am also the survivor of a life-threatening postpartum complication — a brain bleed (bilateral subdural hematomas) that was delayed in diagnosis, three weeks after I delivered my first child 11 years ago.
I originally had planned a natural labor and enlisted a doula, but after a day and a half of labor, I failed to progress and ended up having a C-section. After the delivery, I had excruciating headaches and told both my OB and my anesthesiologist several times. I felt brushed off and did not know what to do. It was not until I told one of my fellow residents about the pain I was experiencing that I went into my own ER where I worked and received a CT scan that diagnosed my life-threatening brain bleed.
I ended up having an urgent surgery on a Sunday afternoon to save my life. This experience has made me a better physician, and it is why I have committed myself to improving the lives of mothers and babies in my work in Detroit.