WARNING: This story contains details and images that may be disturbing for some readers.
Emilie Negahban’s son Nathaniel was alive for only eight hours before he died in his mother’s arms this past February.
But the first-time mother and her husband have been retraumatized after learning their son’s body has been ready to be brought back home for eight weeks — and no one told them.
“It completely breaks me apart, and it enrages me,” Negahban told Global News in her North Vancouver home.
“I only got to spend a few minutes with him, and I just wanted to bring him home where he belongs. He belongs at home. He belongs with us.”
Nathaniel died after a difficult birth at Lions Gate Hospital that resulted in organ failure and a skull bleed. He was transferred to BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, where he died a short time later.
Negahban says she immediately expressed her wishes to staff at BC Women’s to have Nathaniel’s body released to her as soon as possible, so the family could have him cremated and bring his ashes home.
“Every single person told me that his body wasn’t ready and that it would take a few months for it to be ready,” she said. “Nobody could really give me a reason why.”
After getting the same answers for two months, Negahban finally got through to staff at the BC Women’s morgue, who confirmed that Nathaniel had been ready to be picked up since Feb. 8 — just a few days after he had been born.
“That’s the part that hurts the most,” she said through tears. “Knowing that he’s all by himself, in a tiny little refrigerator in the cold, waiting for us to pick him up.
“How can this happen? How can they leave this tiny little baby by themselves in the morgue?”
Negahban says she was told the delay, which prevented the family from holding a larger memorial, was due to a “communication breakdown” between departments.
In a statement, the BC Women’s Hospital acknowledged the “difficult time” Negahban and her family have faced.
“We have been in direct contact with the family to apologize for the distress they are facing,” a spokesperson said, adding it was committed to remaining in contact.
The hospital added it is “reviewing its processes to ensure families can be supported as best as possible.”
The long delay has added more frustration and trauma to Negahban and her family, who have also filed a complaint with Lions Gate Hospital over the birth itself.
Negahban says she was sent home twice with morphine while in labour. After finally being admitted to give birth, she says a vacuum was used without her consent when Nathaniel became stuck.
Doctors then moved to performing a C-section, during which Negahban says the doctor admitted to applying too much pressure to Nathaniel’s head. The doctor also allegedly apologized for not performing a C-section earlier.
Vancouver Coastal Health has said it is investigating the claims laid out in the complaint.
“It’s just constantly adding more and more layers of heartbreak, and more and more layers of anger and frustration with the system,” Negahban said.
The family plans to hold a memorial for Nathaniel as soon as they bring his ashes home.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the couple, including allowing them to take time off to recover and to pay for memorial and legal fees.