Montreal family searching for answers after traumatic labour leaves woman with physical, mental disabilities
MONTREAL -- The family and friends of a new mother are trying desperately to figure out what happened to her after a traumatic labour left her mentally and physically disabled.
“My best friend walked in as a healthy 27-year-old and walked out, months later, a completely different person," said Amanda Valvano. "She is never going to be the person that she was before, that’s very clear."
Laurlyn Ley was nearly 42 weeks pregnant when she headed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal to deliver her daughter in May. But things took a turn for the worse – and the family is still trying to figure out just what happened that day.
After being administered a series of drugs during labour, Laurlyn went into cardiac arrest. Twice.
Receiving drugs during labour isn’t uncommon, but the family says even the doctors were puzzled when Laurlyn’s heart gave out.
“I couldn’t understand how it happened and I’m trying to get someone to tell me how long was she without oxygen,” Melinda Ley, Laurlyn’s mother, recounted of when she rushed to the hospital when she heard the news.
“And I’ve got different doctors – one tells me ‘not that long,’ another says ‘it must have been four to five minutes because the damage is so severe…’,” she added.
Melinda said the doctors asked if Laurlyn had a history of heart problems.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out how this happened, I think,” she said.
The lack of oxygen to Laurlyn’s brain has left her with physical limitations and a damaged memory. Her daughter, Charlie, was also rushed to the Montreal Children’s Hospital moments after her birth due to seizures.
“Every minute of the day is a challenge and honestly, her memory is short-term so she doesn’t remember anything 10 minutes ago,” Melinda said.
“The only thing she does remember and retains constantly is her baby. It’s crazy, she won’t remember if her friend came to visit her, anything she did throughout the day, what she ate, but her child is always there.”
A family member who was in the delivery room with Laurlyn said she was given multiple epidurals and spinals during her labour – the former when she arrived in hospital and throughout her stay, and the latter when her doctors realized she would need a caesarean section.
They say she was also given another drug that they haven’t been able to identify without her medical records. It remains unclear what exactly caused the complications.
“I don’t want to speculate, and I don’t want to say anything against any doctor, and I don’t want to assume anything, because we don’t fully know everything yet,” Melinda said.
“She’s left with severe trauma and brain deficiencies and so we’re trying to figure out why – what happened specifically, and why.”
The family’s attempt to retrieve Laurlyn’s medical records hasn’t been easy – in part because their focus has been on caring for Laurlyn and Charlie for the past few months and in part because of the bureaucratic hoops they say they’ve had to jump through.
“In the first few days, anything the doctors told me, I probably was in such shock I couldn’t remember so I had to ask them again, and again, and again,” Melinda said.
“We understand there are procedures, we’re following the procedures, and every time we try to follow the procedures there’s another bump in the road,” Valvano added.
The CIUSSS that oversees St. Mary’s Hospital declined to comment on Laurlyn’s case for confidentiality reasons.
“We encourage patients and their families to share issues or situations they deem unacceptable to the complaints’ commissioner,” spokesperson Helen Bergeron-Gamache from the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Ile-de-Montreal said in an emailed statement to CTV News.
“Appropriate follow-ups are then carried out in order to improve our practices.”
The family is currently waiting on the documents.
"I think once we get her medical records and I'm able to have other doctors have a look at it and explain and maybe have a conclusion as to what happened and why this happened – but until then I can’t speculate because I don’t know," Melinda said.
Melinda said Laurlyn’s physical condition has improved after a few months of rehabilitation, but her mental abilities haven't. Being the mother of a newborn, she now requires support 24/7.
“Most of my day is filled with just trying to have a regular day with her and help her be mom,” Melinda said. “And we write everything down, so she has something to follow…”
Laurlyn graduated from a wheelchair to a walker, and then to walking independently, but she hasn’t managed to fully heal.
“She’s very wobbly, so she can’t carry her baby,” Melinda said. “So when she feeds Charlie, she has to go sit on the couch or on the bed.”
As far as her memory is concerned, Melinda said medication might play a role in some of the haziness she’s experiencing.
“Anything in the last four years she’s pretty much forgotten,” she said. “Prior to 2016, she can remember, but you have to help her, you have to probe her.”
Laurlyn is aware that something happened to her when she had her baby, but she doesn’t seem to know what, Melinda said.
“She doesn’t initiate conversation anymore. She just kind of sits there and stares all day unless you initiate a conversation with her and usually, she repeats herself,” she said. “For a week she’ll go ‘Am I getting better? Am I getting better?’”
Melinda has turned her life upside down to care for her daughter. She’s by her side at all times and is now searching for a bigger apartment, one that is better adapted to Laurlyn’s needs.
“I’ve lost family members, my mom, my dad, my brother, I’ve suffered different traumatic experiences in my life but I’ve never felt anything like this in my life,” Melinda said.
“I’ve never been so scared and just – no idea where to go, what to do, how to help her.”
NOT AN ISOLATED OCCURRENCE?
Laurlyn’s friends are sharing her story on social media in hopes of raising both awareness and funds for her family.
As Laurlyn’s story makes its rounds on the internet, her friends are realizing she might not be alone.
“I feel like I’ve stumbled onto – unfortunately – a bigger-picture situation here,” Valvano said. “We thought that this was a very rare case – her specific situation is a very rare case – but there are so many other women and mothers who came forward with the same horror stories about our medical system.”
Several people have also reached out to help, and Valvano hopes to use their generosity for the benefit of more women than just her friend.
“I’m making a centre and I’m going to redistribute (material donations) to the women who actually need the stuff,” she said.
“If we can’t protect our mothers when they’re most vulnerable – when they protect us in every single second of our lives, then what are we doing wrong?”