A former Ohio prison inmate who had a stillbirth in 2007 says more should have been done to save the baby

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Rebecca Hill hold a picture of her fifth child, Elijah Paul Barnes, who was stillborn in 2007.(Photo: Alaina Busch, WOSU News Reporter)
Rebecca Hill hold a picture of her fifth child, Elijah Paul Barnes, who was stillborn in 2007.(Photo: Alaina Busch, WOSU News Reporter)

The pitter patter of little feet racing around a house is an unmistakable sound for parents, especially moms. It’s a sign the child is growing from tiny, helpless infant to independent toddler. This time last year a mother of four from Tipp City was looking forward to these kinds of milestones for a fifth time. But something went wrong. WOSU tells this woman’s story about having a stillbirth as an Ohio prison inmate.

Rebecca Hill delivered Elijah Paul Barnes on Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 at the Ohio State University Medical Center. Elijah who was delivered about a month early weighed five pounds, eight ounces. This should have been a joyful occasion for Hill even though she was a prison inmate when she delivered Elijah. Instead, it was heartbreaking. The baby boy was stillborn. It’s been more than a year and Hill still insists something could have been done to save the eight month old fetus.

“In my opinion they just didn’t do enough,” Hill said.

Hill questions whether the care she received in prison was as good as what she would have received had she been outside the confines of steel bars and razor wire.

Hill was about four months pregnant when she entered the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections on November 5th, 2006. She was there to serve a nine month prison term for a felony theft conviction. According to medical records, she had a normal ultra sound later that month. By all accounts, Hill’s fifth pregnancy was going smoothly and she was moved to the Franklin County Pre-Release Center for the final months before delivery.

But that changed in February, three months into her sentence. Hill said she started to feel her baby move less and less. And on February 7th she said she told corrections officers about the problem.

“We are required to go to the correctional officer. We can’t go straight to the office our self and tell them our problem. And I’d tell them, and he’d call the medical center, and they’d just tell him for me to do a fetal count and come back, which I would do. And I would come back and there was no improvement, and some times less results. And they just kept on telling him for me to do another fetal count, eat something to see if the baby would get active, or drink something, there was no improvement whatsoever,” Hill said.

Hill said she did baby kick counts for about a week. Rachel Gaumond, a former inmate who took baby care classes with Hill, remembers Hill’s worried disposition.

“I just felt so bad for her. Because these people, these nurses and stuff there, just weren’t listening to what she had to say,” Gaumond said.

After about a week, the prison medical staff gave Hill a non-stress test, or NST, where doctors test fetal heart rate. They look to see if the heart rate increases and decreases normally. The first test results came back normal. But Hill said she was certain something was wrong.

“Went back the next morning and told them, it might have been that next afternoon, told them that there was no improvement. And then later that evening on Thursday they put me on the stress test again. They said that they faxed it over the OSU and OSU said everything was fine,” Hill said.

Then on Friday, after complaining again, Hill was sent to OSU Medical center for a third non-stress test. It’s results also were normal.

Hill was not a worried first-time mom. She has four other children. And she said the eighth month of this pregnancy was different from the rest. But despite her concerns, Hill was never offered any testing besides a non-stress test.

“I requested for more tests and they told me that everything looked OK and that there was nothing further that they could do for me,” Hill said.

After that third fetal non-stress test, the one at OSU on a Friday, Hill was sent back to prison and did not receive any medical care over the weekend. On Monday, she reported for a routine appointment with the attending obstetrician at the prison.

“I said he’s been moving less. I haven’t felt him in the last two days,” Hill said.

At the appointment, the OB could not find a heartbeat on a fetal monitor.

Twelve days after she first started complaining about a decrease in fetal movement, Hill was taken to OSU Medical Center where it was confirmed the fetus was dead. She was 36 weeks along in the pregnancy.

Hill said she feels like her complaints were not taken seriously. And she insists she was not, in her words, “crying wolf.” “I think it all really could’ve been prevented. It makes it even harder. I mean, I understand these things do happen. But where I complained for two weeks knowing that he was, I knew, I know he was alive. He was alive the Friday before I went to OSU to deliver my dead son,” Hill said. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and Ohio State University Medical Center said everything that could’ve been done for Hill and her baby was done. In just a moment, we’ll hear from the prison system and the hospital. Also we’ll hear from two other doctors who say additional measures could have been taken to possibility help save the baby Hill named Elijah.

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