Mother Dies from Strep A Infection Just Days After Giving Birth

A man in Markham, Ontario has “many questions and concerns” after his wife, 24-year-old Ayesha Riaz, died after contracting a group A streptococcus (Strep A or GAS) infection just days after giving birth.  An outbreak of the infection in the maternity ward at the Markham Stouffville Hospital also left two other women ill.

What Happened?

Riaz’s son was born on February 7, 2018, approximately four to five weeks early. After the birth, both Riaz and baby were doing well but had to remain in hospital so the baby could be monitored.

Her husband told Global News that following the birth, Riaz was “completely fine”, feeding, changing, and interacting with her newborn son, and complaining only about some back pain. Around 2 a.m. on February 8 the couple was moved into a private room in the hospital’s postpartum ward. Following this, Riaz began to feel dizzy and lightheaded. A nurse performed an electrocardiogram test and the husband was told that Riaz’s heart rate was “a little high”. The husband says that throughout that night, nurses were called into the room several times, to bring new bed sheets or to help with feeding.

Clinical notes provided by the family indicate that Riaz’s first complaint was recorded on February 9. On that day, the couple was visited by a doctor who ordered a blood culture test. The husband says that Riaz was short of breath, tired, and bloated, walking to the nurse’s station and requesting pain relief. At this point, the husband and the family became concerned about Riaz’s symptoms, consulting with family friends who are physicians in the U.S.

Around 3 a.m. on February 10, the husband received a phone call from his own mother informing him that Riaz had developed a fever and was on antibiotics. The husband spoke with Riaz on the phone who told him that her body felt “very stiff”, that she was “very weak” and that she could not get out of bed. She asked him to come see her in the morning. When he did so, her fever had gotten worse, and the husband claims it took hours for her to see a doctor. When a doctor came, the doctor suggested Riaz be moved to the ICU, where she was moved around 1 p.m.

Once in the ICU, Riaz was heavily sedated and provided with multiple antibiotics. The husband claims that at that point, the family was informed that doctors were treating Riaz’s symptoms as Strep A. After Riaz failed to respond to any medication or procedures, staff began to perform CPR. The husband claims he stepped in to help at one point.

Riaz was pronounced dead at 4:33 pm that day. It was later determined that a Strep A infection had caused septic shock that eventually led to her death.

The husband has since raised several concerns, including allegations that:

  • the nurse who delivered the baby did so without the supervision or monitoring of a doctor;
  • worries that the mother had regarding symptoms she was experiencing were dismissed as “normal”;
  • only one doctor was in charge of the ICU when the mother was transferred there on February 10.

The Hospital’s Response

The hospital has noted that it is unable to comment on or address these allegations due to patient confidentiality.

Both the hospital and York Region Public Health continue to investigate how the disease was contracted. Neither the hospital itself nor public health initially shared information about the death. The hospital waited for more than a week before released information about the number of strep A infections and about Riaz’s death.

On February 27, the hospital’s head of communications confirmed that “a mother did die of a severe form of group A strep infection while she was in our hospital”. Since then, the hospital has said:

Like all hospitals, we have an obligation to report group A strep cases to public health and we did so immediately… [a]s soon as there were indications of a group A strep case on the unit, we instituted enhanced cleaning measures and restricted visitors to the unit. We also proactively notified patients who would be coming to the unit about the increase in infections and the restrictions we had put in place.

York Region Public Health told the Toronto Star that there were 34 cases of Strep A in 2015, 31 cases in 2016, and 34 in 2017, noting that the organization is not required to publicly inform the community or post about outbreaks online.

What Is Strep A?

As we’ve previously blogged about, Strep A is a common bacterium living in the human body.

In some cases, the consequences of Strep A can be life-changing, or even fatal. If Strep A bacteria enters a part of the human body that is sterile and where bacteria is generally not present (such as the bloodstream, muscle tissue or similar), and this is not detected and treated with antibiotics or otherwise in a timely way, there can be serious implications. This is often referred to as invasive Strep A.

Outcomes from invasive Strep A can include sepsis, septic shock, toxic shock, organ failure, brain damage, and death.

During the same outbreak of Strep A that claimed Riaz’s life,  doctors identified the Strep A in the blood of a second mother. Once they did, they decided that she should have her uterus scraped of a tissue they believed might be the source of the problem. The problematic tissue was eventually removed after two procedures, and tested positive for Strep A. That mother said she immediately began to feel better and was discharged within days.

 How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

Patients or families who have been affected by complications stemming from Strep A and other serious bacterial infections should consult with a medical malpractice lawyer to understand what their options may be, especially if there is a concern that the Strep A was not detected and treated in a timely way. Depending on the circumstances, injured patients or their families may be entitled to significant compensation for their injuries. This compensation includes damages in recognition of injuries suffered, damages for financial losses or expenses resulting from the injury, future care costs, and money for the purchase of any medical equipment or supplies needed following the injury.

The highly experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Sommers Roth & Elmaleh in Toronto have helped hundreds of families in the greater Toronto area, Ontario, and across Canada whose lives have been affected by complications caused by bacterial infections, Strep A, and septic shock.

We have been successful in obtaining significant damages for injuries caused by bacterial infection and sepsis:

If you believe that you or a family member have been affected by medical malpractice, including misdiagnosis or hospital error you may be eligible to receive compensation to provide financial security for your family going forward. Contact Sommers Roth & Elmaleh at 1-844-777-7372 or online. As one of the oldest medical malpractice firms in Toronto, we are well-established and highly respected in the medical malpractice field and have helped clients from across Canada, including Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland.


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