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Pneumonia cited in childbirth death

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 16/05) - A Yellowknife school teacher who died within hours of giving birth by caesarean section succumbed to pneumonia, according a recent report from the Coroner's Office.

Kyla Fennig, who was 30, contracted the infection following a complicated, nine-hour delivery last February, said Coroner Wendy Eggenberger.

Doctors tried unsuccessfully to induce labour with medication. They turned to C-section, which was a contributing factor to the fatal disease, Eggenberger wrote.

While death during childbirth is relatively rare, there are still dangers associated with delivery, said Chief Coroner Percy Kinney.

"As medicine has progressed, we see this less frequently. But with any surgical procedure there are always risks," he said Thursday.

Nationally, about six births in 100,000 result in a maternal death, according Health Canada. Those numbers are among the lowest in the world; the United States has a rate twice the Canadian average while Mexico has one 13 times greater.

Roughly five of 1,000 Canadian pregnancies are accompanied by a life-threatening condition. From 1991-2001, 205 pregnant women suffered from adult respiratory distress syndrome - the ultimately fatal condition triggered by Fennig's pneumonia.

Fennig was admitted to Stanton Territorial Hospital after he water broke on the evening of Feb. 20, 2004. The Mildred Hall Elementary School teacher was one week past her initial due date and doctors administered medication to speed up the delivery, according to the coroner's report.

When Fennig still had not given birth nine hours later, they decided to proceed with a caesarean section. At around 10 a.m. the following morning, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

After being moved to the obstetrics ward, Fennig's blood pressure dropped suddenly and doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia.

As her condition worsened, doctors tried to insert a tube down her throat and establish an emergency airway below her voicebox. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and Fennig died just hours later.

Heather Chang, co-ordinator of quality and risk management at Stanton, said hospital officials investigated the death but legislation barred them from making the results public.

No recommendations in report

Kinney and Eggenberger did not issue any recommendations in their report - an indication there were no glaring medical or procedural errors.