Babies At Risk: Mother claims botched delivery and missing health records

Crystal Mae Rose Creek survived a difficult birth her mother says was botched.
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New questions involving Indiana's largest health network, amid allegations of risky care for low-income pregnant women.

A local mother is coming forward to tell her story of what she calls a botched delivery and missing medical records.

13 Investigates first introduced you to the doctor who filed a federal lawsuit against IU Health for allegedly putting mothers and babies in danger.

13 Investigates shows you why it's too late for this mother, whose little girl is still fighting to reclaim what she lost.

Crystal's story

Limited arm movement is all 10-year-old Crystal Rose Mae Creek has known. It's one of the lasting effects of what her mother calls a "botched" delivery.

"She's my blessed miracle baby," said Dorothy Creek Riggle, Crystal's mother.

A baby that wasn't supposed to make it out of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at IU Health Methodist Hospital is now a sweet-hearted little girl.  

Yet Crystal still fights against short-term memory loss and hurtful teasing over a wandering eye.

"I feel like I'm dumb. I want to have the eye surgery. I cannot make people bully me anymore," she said, trying to explain the impact of her injuries at school.

For the first time, corrective surgery could be in her future. 

A case of missing records

Dorothy Riggle says she was in the dark for years about the extent of trauma Crystal suffered during childbirth. Not even schools that worked with Crystal could get their hands on her health records.

"They've been trying to obtain records on her since kindergarten," said the 35-year-old mother.

RELATED: Mother filing malpractice lawsuit against IU Health

According to Dorothy, the health records at IU Health mysteriously disappeared until 2013, nearly 10 years after things went horribly wrong in the hands of a certified nurse-midwife.  

"How can they keep records from somebody like that?," she questioned.

The records were eventually obtained by Wayne Township Schools and show Crystal suffered respiratory failure, hemorrhaging, a brain injury and seizures as the result of a traumatic birth.
  
Records or not, Dorothy says she'll never forget what happened.

Claims of a botched delivery

The 10-pound, 9-ounce baby girl was supposed to be delivered by c-section. Doctors at HealthNet had termed the pregnancy high risk after Dorothy's water broke at 24 weeks.

On October 29, 2004, Dorothy went to Methodist. There, she told a nurse-midwife the baby was coming.

"I said, 'Look, I'm telling you, this baby is a huge baby. Me and my doctor's already discussed it. I'm having a c-section you need to get my doctor here!'  She said, 'Well, I will decide when and if you need a doctor'," explained Dorothy, who says continued pleas also went ignored.

"She said, 'You're fine, you're just being a wuss.' And then the monitor started going off, so she left the room," she recalled.

That's when Crystal began to emerge and the midwife reportedly got help.

"She didn't care until it was, 'Oh, crap! It's time to get somebody now.' And by then it was too late," Dorothy told 13 Investigates.

Crystal was stuck and couldn't get oxygen.

"I was freaking out. She wasn't crying, there was nothing. It was like that for 10 minutes. She was gone," or so Dorothy thought, as she relived those traumatic moments.

Crystal was whisked away. Another team got busy on Dorothy, who had suffered extensive tearing and permanent damage.

"It was just botched," Dorothy said with disgust. "Everything became hush mouth."

Too late for legal action

That's when Dorothy decided to pursue legal action.  

She didn't get far.

She says attorneys threw up their hands when they couldn't get hospital records.  By the time Crystal's school got them, the statute of limitations had run out.

Personal injury attorney David Stewart is representing four mothers who are filing medical complaints against IU Health and its network.

He says mothers only have two years to file a lawsuit if they are injured, but up to six years on behalf of an injured child.

"If the statute has expired on a case, let's say it is past the six years, then yes, that would be a problem," explained Stewart.

Whistleblower says system fails moms

Dorothy's family called 13 Investigates after seeing our story with Dr. Judith Robinson, who came forward with disturbing allegations in a whistleblower lawsuit.

"These women were not receiving the care they should," Dr. Robinson insisted.

She alleged IU Health allowed certified nurse-midwives to handle high-risk pregnancies for low-income women, putting both the mothers and their babies at risk.

Robinson alleges it was a money-making scheme and claims IU Health submitted bills in a physician's name when the service was actually performed by a certified nurse-midwife.
  
"It was very lucrative for them to have this going," said Robinson.

In fact, Robinson was a private physician with on-call duties at Methodist when Dorothy gave birth to Crystal in 2004. It was Robinson who signed off on Dorothy's dismissal instructions from the ER, days after she returned to Methodist with an infection.

RELATED: Mother filing malpractice lawsuit against IU Health

Fast forward to 2011, as the medical director at the maternity center for HealthNet and the former director of Women's Health at Methodist, Robinson alerted administrators to permanent injuries suffered by mothers and babies at the hands of certified nurse-midwives. Robinson says no one listened and she was fired.

"It was my job as medical director of the maternity center to ensure patient care and safety.  And so I would take it to the next higher level. And the next higher level did not care," Robinson said in a sit down interview with 13 Investigates.
       
"I was failed. She was failed like nobody cared," said Riggle, with tears welling up.

Now mothers like her are speaking out, too.

"I'm nobody. I'm not the government, I'm not the state, I'm not Medicaid. I'm just somebody who was poor, didn't have any money," she said.

No money to fight a big health system and possibly nothing to make up for what was lost.
Yet Crystal, with childlike eyes, sees what money can't buy; something etched in her long-term memory and restores a hurting mother's honor.

"She's thoughtful. I love her, she's a great mom. She usually cooks good, good, good food and she loves me," said Crystal.

Doctors are now discussing corrective surgery for Crystal. 
 
HealthNet statement

In a statement, IU Health partner HealthNet said:

"Due to our patient's privacy rights, we cannot comment on care provided...We follow the standards of care developed by the American College of Nurse Midwives and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and stand by our collaborative model of care..."

Crystal's mom says new attorneys tell her if they can prove the medical records were somehow misplaced or withheld, she could still have a case.