Dad's story inspires 'The Resident' episode, revealing racial bias in maternal mortality

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Dad's story inspires 'The Resident' episode, revealing racial bias in maternal mortality

Charles Johnson IV lost his wife Kira after she gave birth to their second child. Their story inspired an episode of 'The Resident' on Fox.


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Charles Johnson IV has told his heartbreaking tale of losing his vivacious wife only hours after giving birth to their second son to congress.

"There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it."- Chinese Proverb

Now their story has inspired an episode of Fox's "The Resident," which will air 8 p.m. ET on Monday, April 15. The names and the medical details have been changed. But the episode addresses maternal mortality in the U.S. and, in particular, that black mothers are more likely to die from childbirth than white mothers.

More:Maternal deaths and injuries: Top 10 takeaways from USA TODAY investigation of hospitals

Johnson watched the episode in advance and said it brought the pain back of losing his wife, Kira Dixon Johnson. Johnson, 39, died on April 13, 2016 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from complications of a scheduled cesarean section, 12 hours after she delivered her son, Langston, according to Johnson. Her bladder had been nicked and the internal bleeding had been discovered too late, he said.

"As difficult as it was, my hope is it will move people toward action and this will move people to be aware that this has been America's dirty little secret for far too long," Johnson said. "With our our wealth and resources, it is shameful. And it's very, very painful. I'm hopeful about the impact this will have."

'Reduced us all to tears'

The show's producers contacted Johnson after seeing his story in acongressional briefing on maternal mortality and at a Million Moms March on Washington D.C. At the show's conclusion, a brief clip of Kira Dixon Johnson is shown, her hair whipping around her face as she flashes a double-wide smile traveling by boat and train and hugging her first son, Charles Johnson V. Her husband is then shown speaking in Washington D.C.

Don't try to fix everything. Give young kids a chance to find their own solutions. When you lovingly acknowledge a child's minor frustrations without immediately rushing in to save her, you teach her self-reliance and resilience.

"There is nothing I can do to bring Kira back," Johnson told the audience. "But what I can do is to fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure we send mothers home with their babies."

'Resident' co-creator, writer and executive producer Amy Holden Jones said the show strives to not only entertain but educate the public about unseen problems in medicine. Every year, 50,000 U.S. women suffer serious complications from childbirth. almost 700 die, making this country the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world .

"The footage of Kira is enough to break anybody's heart," Holden Jones said. Then writers met with Johnson. "He told us personally what happened that day and he reduced us all to tears."

The episode is a nail-biter. You have an inkling how it's going to end, but you hope against hope it won't .The show doesn't shy away from confronting an obvious bias as the black woman's care in the show is delayed until it is too late to save her.

Holden Jones said that message is important, as is the message that hospitals could work toward lowering the maternal mortality rate if they would establish uniform, nationalized protocols and best practices as they do for heart patients or other types of medicines, which is addressed in the episode.

Set up a "gratitude circle" every night at dinner. Go around the table and take turns talking about the various people who were generous and kind to each of you that day. It may sound corny, but it makes everyone feel good.

More:Hospitals know how to protect mothers. They just aren’t doing it.

"It's simple," she said. "Almost every area of medicine has these protocols, but maternal care does not."

Outrage and lawsuit

Johnson lives in Atlanta with son, Langston, who just just turned 3 this month and Charles V, 4.

"I am looking at a 3-by-5 picture of Kira right now and everywhere there are humongous pictures of her," he said. "I make a conscious effort to keep her alive for the children. Everywhere we go we say, 'Oh, mommy loves this song. Mommy loved this place.' Even though it's hard. Even though she's not here. I want them to have a beautiful image of who she was and the way she lived her life."

After her death, Johnson formed 4Kira4Moms, a non-profit that honors her life and is dedicated to preventing other mothers and families from birth-related deaths.

Johnson, along with his mother, Glenda Johnson, more famously known as TV Judge Hatchett, have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai in Kira's death.

In a statement, Cedars-Sinai hailed Johnson as "demonstrating important leadership in raising awareness of preventable maternal deaths."

"Cedars-Sinai faculty members support efforts to improve care and prevent maternal deaths, and are actively involved in community, state and federal initiatives to safeguard the lives of mothers and their babies," the hospital said. "While federal privacy laws prevent us from responding directly about any patient’s care without written authorization, we can share that Cedars-Sinai thoroughly investigates any situation where there are concerns about a patient’s medical care. We are always committed to making any changes needed so we can provide our patients with the highest level of care."

Read books together every day. Get started when he's a newborn; babies love listening to the sound of their parents' voices. Cuddling up with your child and a book is a great bonding experience that will set him up for a lifetime of reading.

Johnson said awareness of maternal deaths in the U.S. is growing and that's a start.

"More has been done in the past 18 months than in the past 20 years," he said. "Telling the stories of other women who have died and people becoming outraged has helped. That's what I'm most proud of. A show of this magnitude coming into people's living rooms is a huge step."

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