The tragedy that befell a Maple Ridge family in 1994 was the impetus for a new effort to stop maternal mortality in Canada.
Kitty Carr died in Ridge Meadows Hospital, with her husband Paul at her side, after having given birth to their daughter Kitty Lana.
She would have been 65 if she had not passed away.
Husband Paul, who lived in Maple Ridge for 25 years but has moved to Kelowna, recently donated $100,000 to establish the Kitty Carr Fund, through the Canadian Foundation of Women’s Health.
His goal is to stop future mothers and babies from dying at childbirth.
Telling their story, Paul relates how his late wife and he were both immigrants – she born in Hong Kong, and he in Ireland.
They met at a company Christmas party in 1988. He was a young engineer, and she the assistant to a marking manager. He was immediately drawn to her.
“We talked and danced all night, even through I was not even a dancer,” he said.
They were married at the UBC Golf Club in August of 1990, and settled in Maple Ridge, close to his sisters.
On New Year’s Eve 1994, in the morning, they drove to hospital to deliver their first child.
Everything was normal up to noon. Kitty gave birth by Cesarean section at 4:20 p.m.. Two hours later, she was in distress, and needed an emergency hysterectomy. Paul waited with his sister, Bernice Mussallem.
“We waited and prayed, but tragically, Kitty died on New Year’s Eve, just after 8 p.m. There are no words to summarize the shock and devastation I felt at that time, on the day that was to be the most joyous in my family’s life: the birth of our newborn daughter, now the day of the death of my beautiful wife and soulmate,” Paul shared.
“How does one reconcile the pure joy of birth, and the loss in death, simultaneously. My world fell apart, and the remaining void was indescribable.”
He raised his daughter, baby manual in one hand, Kitty Lana in the other. She has graduated from Queens University with an honours bachelor of arts and business diploma from the Smith School of Business, and she is pursuing her career in Toronto, in digital media and marketing.
Paul is former president of the electrical division of Guillevin International.
Through all those years, he has been haunted by how his wife’s death could happen in a country with a vaunted health care system, and has learned that Canada lags behind nations with less prosperity.
Canada ranked 39th in the world in maternal mortality rates, and has been doing worse in recent years. The most recently reported maternal mortality rates, according to Statistics Canada, are 8.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018. That number was 5.9 the year prior.
Paul was born in Ireland, in a family of eight children that included three sets of twins. That put the family on the front pages of national newspapers. Ireland has a maternal mortality rate that is half of Canada’s, and recorded no maternal deaths in 2018 or 2019.
He notes that the U.S. Centre for Disease Control asserts that 60 per cent of maternal deaths are avoidable. There is no accurate data in Canada.
“I believe no woman should have to die giving birth in Canada,” he said.
“Canada can do better. Canada must do better. It is unacceptable and a terrible indictment that in today’s age, in a country with our prosperity, excellent education and medical research capability, and focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, that our maternal death rate is so high…”
He said a new system is needed, to require a confidential inquiry into maternal deaths, to help understand causes and identify prevention. This is done in other countries, including the United Kingdom. The Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health has made this a priority, and are securing funding.
Carr is helping.
His Kitty Carr Campaign has been sent to more than 100 of Canada’s top executives and CEOs to raise their awareness on the issue and urgency of maternal mortality in Canada and to seek their financial support. The goal is to raise $1 million plus.
He is also lobbying politicians at both the federal and provincial level to establish a confidential inquiry system into maternal deaths.
The Kitty Carr fund will support research and initiatives focused on prevention of maternal mortality in Canada.
Those who would like to donate to the cause can see the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health website at www.cfwh.org
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