Local woman's tragic story an example of alarming trend that's concerning doctors, expectant mothers

There's an alarming trend in Western Pennsylvania that has doctors and expectant mothers concerned.

Maternal deaths are on the rise in the last decade, whether from underlying conditions or a tragic, sudden turn of events.

Only Channel 11 Morning News Anchor Katherine Amenta sat down with a local family who shared their story, in hopes of helping others.

"I just wish it never happened, this isn't how it's supposed to happen," said Mario Romanelli.

Romanelli's heart breaks for his wife Amanda every time their daughter cries.

"She doesn't get to feed her, she doesn't get to like hold her when she's crying," said Romanelli.

Amanda suffered devastating complications during child birth in July, when things suddenly went very wrong.

"She made a gargling sound, turned her head to the side, and just passed out," said Amanda's father, Domenic Marks.

It was an amniotic fluid embolism, (AFE), a rare condition at childbirth, where amniotic fluid enters the mother's blood stream. Marks said doctors did CPR for 37 minutes and her organs started shutting down.

Little Mila was delivered, but Amanda was given only 48 hours to live. She defied the odds, but she lost her right leg, can't move her arms, and is confined to a hospital bed.


Amanda's tragedy comes as Western Pa. doctors say they're alarmed by what some call an "unacceptable" rise in maternal deaths.

"Any trend in that direction in modern times should make us worried," said Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, UPMC Magee Vice Chair of Obstetrical services.

Simhan said maternal death is anywhere from birth up to a year later, and the primary causes right now are opioid overdoses and severe hypertension.

From 2012 to 2016, there were 11.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. And for black women, it was more than 27.2 deaths.

As for AFE complications like Amanda's, Simhan said there are no vital signs or lab tests to give them warning, and usually the mother dies between 40-80% of the time.

"Some women who have had AFE and survived had reported feeling kind of a sense of dread and some kind of sense, but it really is a very sudden condition," said Simhan.

Simhan said they work tirelessly to fill that role for families, having their hospitals and doctors revolve around the baby and the mother.

Amanda’s family knows she has already beaten the odds, and now their next mission is to get her strong enough to come home and be a mother to Mila.

"It's a miracle. She's a miracle case," said Marks.

In the past two years, the Greensburg community lost a new mother just weeks after her son’s birth and a Pittsburgh woman died during childbirth.

If you'd like to help Amanda, her family set up a GoFundMe page.

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