Outside the country on vacation in the middle of an ocean, the devastating news came via MSNBC satellite. Once again, a (soon-to-be) Black mother and her child had died! When hearing this news I literally fell onto the bed and cried out to my husband, John, “Not again!” I thought that if I closed my eyes and reopened them, perhaps, I had misunderstood. But reopening them, I saw the stark truth and the face of Towie Bowie, a lovely and young Black woman. For me, this story is personal, as I am a Black mother and grandmother. The middle child of five siblings, I grew up in a state next door to Sister Tori’s birthplace. And, I was just a year younger than she when John and I welcomed our first of two children. I recall that moment as clearly as it were yesterday. Tears rolled down both our faces, as we hugged and kissed our little one. Sometimes, the memory of white nurses ignoring my request for an epidural and my scream that they call my Black OB-GYN crosses my mind. I was going to get what I asked for, and I did. It is irrelevant that I, a well-educated, well-paid civil litigator, with a position viewed as authoritative and great health insurance, had to endure this trauma. No expectant mother should.
This isn’t about me. It’s about Sister Torie and the many other Sisters whose families have experienced unimaginable loss during what should be the most joyous times of their and their loved ones’ lives. Below are links to three news stories her death. What’s most notable is that the medical examiner noted in her autopsy that this Olympian athlete in her prime died from natural causes, while trying to deliver her baby on her own at home! This explanation is ludicrous! Why would any woman, particularly one of Sister Torie’s stature and background, attempt such an act! They would not. Are Black pregnant women viewed as imbeciles! Well, that’s a topic for another day. When questioned by the media about causation the explanation was that eclampsia and preeclampsia were the culprits. Both have symptoms (e.g., severe headaches, fast hear rates, etc.). I think Sister Torie, a first-time expectant mother, would have reported these types of symptoms to her treating medical providers. And even if it were assumed that she didn't, wouldn’t caring and attentive physicians charged with doing no have have checked her heartrate and breathing during prenatal visits? And, if she were predisposed to eclampsia and preeclampsia, wouldn’t her medical records (likely electronic ones shared between healthcare practices) have pointed to this? Enough said. Black maternal and infant mortality and morbidity are not simply a topic to discuss over lunch or dinner. It’s real folks!
Tori Bowie, an elite Olympic athlete, died of complications from childbirth, NPR (June 13, 2023)
Track Star Tori Bowie Died in Childbirth, New York Times (June 13, 2023)
CNN’s Laura Coats Anchor almost died in childbirth