Florida Mom Seeks 2nd Opinion on Dying Newborn After Car Accident – Loses Custody of All Three Children and Baby Dies in State Care
by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
When an 8 month pregnant mother arrived at the hospital after a car accident, her baby was clearly in trouble. Doctors allegedly seemed to be more concerned about Johnna Furman’s broken wrist than the emergency facing her unborn baby. Her baby needed to be born quickly, but the delay of a necessary c-section resulted in life threatening lack of oxygen to the baby in the womb.
Baby Gabriel was born with brain damage and other serious medical conditions allegedly arising from this lack of oxygen.
Throughout his first week and a half of life, doctors at the University of Florida Shands Hospital told Johnna that her baby would not survive.
She refused to accept that answer.
When she tried to transfer care of her baby to a local children’s hospital for a second opinion, doctors from Shands Hospital reported her to Child Protective Services.
While doctors blamed the mother, Johnna says that it was their medical malpractice that resulted in brain damage to her baby, ultimately leading to his death, and that the hospital is covering up what they did by blaming her.
Child Protective Services seized her baby and her other 2 children 11 days after the car accident.
Due to some legal gymnastics, evidence that would have proven her innocence was not heard by the judge and her parental rights were terminated less than a year later. She had another baby the following year, but Florida seized custody of that baby, too, because of a law that was changed a month after the baby was born and applied to her retroactively.
In a video that Johnna recorded to talk about her case, she said:
My family’s gone. I can never have another child.
I don’t understand how this is supposed to be the American dream, that justice doesn’t matter. The truth doesn’t matter.
Delayed C-section Results in Brain Damage
Johnna Furman’s nightmare began when she was almost 38 weeks along in her pregnancy. She was involved in a severe car accident on November 5, 2012.
She was in a great deal of pain when she was taken to the hospital emergency room at Shands Hospital. It was apparent that she had some broken bones, but she was stable.
However, her unborn baby was not doing well. There were signs that he was in trouble but those signs were apparently missed.
Medical records show that the trauma team couldn’t find the baby’s heart rate when Johnna first got to the ER at the hospital, which is a Trauma One center. The medical records state:
While in the trauma bay, fetal heart tones were attempted to be obtained by the trauma team; however, they were unable to obtain.
Someone from the obstetrical unit was called.
Meanwhile, doctors ordered x-rays on her wrist, forearm, hand, knee, and chest, as well as CT scans on her head and spine. Her wrist was broken in two places, and it was soft set in a cast.
When the emergency department finally found the baby’s heart rate, it was charted as being only in the 90s. The normal heart rate for a baby in the womb is between 130 to 160 beats per minute.
That was a huge red flag that the baby was in trouble, yet for almost an entire hour after Johnna’s arrival at the hospital, the focus did not appear to be on the unborn baby.
After all of this focus on her broken bones, an ultrasound machine was brought into the trauma unit, and the baby’s heart rate was checked via ultrasound.
Fetal heart tones [were] noted to be visually 70s. At this point a placental abruption was suspected.
The baby’s condition, which was not good when they arrived at the hospital, had apparently become worse.
A placental abruption means that part of the placenta has detached from the wall of the uterus. This is a serious emergency that will result in fetal death or brain damage if the baby is not born quickly, because the baby receives oxygen through the placenta and umbilical cord.
If the placenta is not attached, there is no way for the baby to receive oxygen until he is born.
In fact, there was a 70% placental abruption, possibly caused by the seat belt during the car crash. His heart rate was dangerously low, showing that he was not getting enough oxygen.
The only thing that can be done in this kind of situation is to get the baby born as quickly as possible if there is to be any hope for survival.
In a video interview (link here) with Medical Expert Jean Lamblin, RN, Professor of Nursing and a Licensed Health Risk Manager, Lamblin said:
Red flags were flying everywhere.
The baby should have probably been delivered right there in the emergency room.
They were more concerned about her wrist than they were about the baby. This is just not acceptable care.
You can look in any journal of American medicine, obstetrics, emergency trauma, and you will find that the standard of care is – “You get the baby out.”
The mother gave verbal consent in the emergency room for a c-section. Even after she was transported to Labor and Delivery, the doctor did not arrive until 8 minutes later.
According to Lamblin, he spent too much time scrubbing up for surgery in the face of the emergency situation. That time, she said, could easily have been shortened.
The baby’s condition was very serious, and minutes counted. She pointed out that:
you can treat a mom and a baby with antibiotics, but you can’t undo anoxia [lack of oxygen to the brain].
Johnna’s baby was born just over an hour after they arrived at the hospital. He was “floppy” and “severely depressed.”
His heart rate by this time was only 40 beats per minute, and he required full resuscitation to get him breathing.
Records show that he had “very severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy,” which, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is:
a brain injury that prevents adequate blood flow to the infant’s brain occurring as a result of a hypoxic-ischemic event during the prenatal, intrapartum or postnatal period.
By the age of 2 years, up to 60% of infants with HIE will die or have severe disabilities including mental retardation, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy (CP).
Baby Gabriel Michael James Furman weighed 5 lbs, 7 ounces, and was immediately taken to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) where he received a blood transfusion for suspected loss of blood because of the placental abruption.
According to an affidavit from OB/GYN Dr. Stephen N. Pine of Los Angeles, California:
It is my opinion as a Board Certified Obstetrician that the delay of over an hour from the time of arrival in the emergency room caused severe compromise and injury to baby Furman with a certain degree of probability of more rapid delivery would have resulted in a baby with more reserve and the ability to recover from the injuries caused by this delay.
I feel there is an extreme deviation from the standard of care caused by the delay in delivery that resulted in more extensive and extreme damage to the fetus.
After the birth of her baby, doctors placed Johnna into a medically-induced coma. When she woke up 3 days later, she was told that her baby had been born but would not survive. Doctors intended to pull the plug on him after she had the chance to hold him.
The devastated mother began praying. In answer to her prayers, baby Gabriel did not die at that time.
Child Protective Services Called, Mother Blamed
Doctors still told her that he would not survive, but Johnna demanded that he be transferred to the local children’s hospital for a second opinion.
When they opposed her, she threatened to go to the media. She was determined to fight for the life of her baby and do everything she could to save his life, including taking him out of a place where the doctors didn’t believe he had a chance to live.
Doctors at Shands Hospital responded by reporting her to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).
They blamed the mother for her baby’s condition.
That same day, when Gabriel was 11 days old, DCF seized custody of him as well as his 2 older siblings – Jaydon, who was 7 at the time, and Trinity, who was 5.
False allegations were apparently used against the mother to take the children, and eventually to terminate Johnna Furman’s parental rights. Doctors from the hospital, including the now-retired medical director of the Child Protection Team, Dr. Bruce McIntosh, told DCF that Johnna caused Gabriel’s brain damage by refusing a c-section for “several hours” and that she was on drugs, according to court documents.
Mother’s Testimony Misrepresented to Cover Up Medical Malpractice?
According to the DCF petition to terminate Johnna’s rights to her children:
Upon arrival at the hospital, the mother refused a cesarean section for several hours which could have prevented oxygen loss and other brain damage to the child.
The hospital eventually performed the procedure against the mother’s request in order to attempt to save the child’s life.
However, the medical records clearly show that Johnna gave verbal consent to a c-section in the emergency room. The baby was born 1 hour and 3 minutes after she arrived at the hospital, so there was never any delay of “several hours.”
There was delay, however, while ER doctors did x-rays, scans, and set her wrist.
This information was in documents which the judge allegedly never saw and the court-appointed attorney never submitted.
After she was wheeled to the operating room, 53 minutes after her arrival, the medical records indicate that the mother refused a c-section for a total of 6 minutes, not “several hours.” The baby was born 4 minutes later.
She had already verbally agreed to a c-section in the emergency room. It is unclear why there was even any discussion of her consent later, after the baby’s heart rate was confirmed to be so low that indicated his life was in danger, and after the doctors suspected the true emergency of placental abruption.
Johnna was in shock and sedated, and she was put into a medically induced coma for 3 days, so she has no memory of this time period.
In a placental abruption, both the baby’s life AND the mother’s life are at risk. There was no visible bleeding from the abruption, which meant that she was bleeding internally.
Not only could the baby have died from lack of oxygen, the mother could have bled to death.
In fact, many days later, Johnna had a blood transfusion of several units of blood, indicating that she had lost a significant amount of blood.
Nurse Jean Lamblin said that the amount of time that passed before the c-section was done indicates that the team at the hospital did not treat the birth as an emergency.
Baby Gabriel never recovered from his birth injuries. Although he survived and was placed into foster care, he passed away the day after Thanksgiving the next year. He was a year and 24 days old.
Dr. Stephen Pine wrote in his affidavit:
These deviations in the standards of care of Johnna Furman directly resulted in [the] infant’s death.
There are, he said, “reasonable grounds” for a “medical negligence claim.”
False Accusations about Mother’s Drug Use
DCF and Shands Hospital accused Johnna Furman of being on drugs when she arrived at the hospital after the car crash. She denies being on drugs when she got to the hospital. However, as we know, guilty people often deny wrongdoing. So, what does the evidence show?
According to the petition against Johnna:
The child and mother also tested positive for opiates and marijuana at the birth of the child.
Later, oxycodone was added to the allegation.
Doctors told the court that:
her drug use caused placental abruption and severe brain damage.
Research into the causes of placental abruption shows that the primary reason is trauma, i.e. the car accident. Drugs are not even listed in many sources as a possible cause. The baby’s brain damage was caused by the lack of oxygen to his brain because of the abruption.
Even so, the medical records show that the baby tested negative for all drugs. There were no drugs in his system.
There was a “presumptive positive” for Johnna on opiates and marijuana in the urine drug screen that was taken simultaneously with the birth of the baby.
Nurse Lamblin addressed that in a deposition with an attorney Daniel Hilbert, who Johnna hired for the appeal.
By this time, Johnna had obtained more than 2000 pages of medical records for her and her baby, which Lamblin reviewed.
Based on her review of the records, Lamblin points out that the screen said that “positive results are unconfirmed and should be used for medical evaluation only.” There were “no detectable levels of marijuana.”
A drug screen is not the same as a drug test. A test is more specific and more accurate, while a screen can show false positives for various reasons, including medical conditions.
Johnna did, however, have opiates in her system. The reason for this is that the doctors at the hospital gave the mother morphine, an opiate, in preparation for the cesarean surgery. That is in her chart.
Of course it would show up. Nurse Lamblin stated that the drugs for the c-section are intentionally given very close to the birth of the baby so that they don’t have time to reach the baby.
DCS argued to the court that common sense says that “no medical personnel would give these types of narcotics to a woman who was eight-plus months pregnant.”
Obviously, they did. It’s in the medical records.
A later drug screen, performed a week later, showed that she had oxycodone in her system.
This is to be expected. Doctors at the hospital gave her oxycodone many times during the time period after the baby’s birth for her broken bones and injuries from the car accident.
It would seem ludicrous that a mother could lose her children for having drugs in her system that her doctors prescribed and gave to her. Yet, at Health Impact News, we have received many such reports. It happens far more often than the public, or legislators, realize.
See this story of a newborn taken because his mother tested positive for properly prescribed drugs:
Medical Records Not Presented to the Court – Judge Famous for 30,000 Adoptions Refuses Rehearing
Johnna remembers very little of the events surrounding the car accident and the birth of her baby. In fact, when she originally woke up from a medically-induced coma 3 days after the birth of her baby, she didn’t even remember that he had been born.
There are many things in the medical records which should have exonerated her had it been presented to the court.
At the time of the TPR trial, Johnna didn’t have many of her medical records. She said she didn’t know that she needed them.
It was only after the TPR hearing that she was finally able to get most of her records – over 2000 pages that Nurse Lamblin and Dr. Pine later reviewed.
However, shortly before the TPR hearing, she was able to obtain some of her records. In those, she found a page showing that there was only a 6 minute period where she refused the c-section, as well as the record showing that morphine, an opioid, had been administered by the hospital before the baby was born.
She took these pages to her court-appointed attorney 3 days before the hearing, but he failed to enter the documents as evidence on her behalf. He also failed to call any witnesses on her behalf. Johnna says that Judge David Gooding refused to hear any of her exonerating evidence.
Johnna quickly filed a motion for a rehearing based on ineffective assistance of counsel, but the judge denied her motion.
Judge Gooding prides himself on facilitating adoptions and has been recognized by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption associated with Wendy’s fast food for his prolific work in adoptions. According to the Associated Press:
The judge normally handles foster care, delinquents and adoption cases and figures he has approved about 30,000 adoptions over the years.
New Law Applied after the Fact Allowed State to Take New Baby
Her rights to her children were terminated on August 27, 2013. Just before Thanksgiving, Johnna learned that she was pregnant again. Three days later, she got a call that baby Gabriel passed away.
Johnna says that she was not permitted to attend her baby’s funeral. It took her 2 years to find out whether he was buried or cremated.
She has filed appeals since the termination of parental rights, but she has still not been able to get the evidence heard that would exonerate her.
When the new baby, Gabriella, was born, it looked like she was going to be able to keep her. A month after she was born, legislators changed a law regarding termination of parental rights. DCS and the state of Florida applied it to Johnna Furman retroactively so they could take the new baby from her, too.
Johnna was devastated.
Florida Statute 39.806 was amended. It removed the “Nexus” requirement that required that, in order for CPS to take any new children born to parents whose rights had been terminated, there had to be a nexus between the past case and the current case.
Destructive New Florida Law Assumes Parents Always Guilty if Prior Conviction Exists
Attorney Dan Hilbert says that, now, even if there is new evidence that demonstrates that a parent was not guilty of the allegations under which they lost their parental rights, the old allegations cannot be refuted. No one will hear the new evidence.
Prior to this law being passed, says law professor and attorney Nick Martino, “evidence could be provided to save a new child.”
Not any more. He identifies a huge issue with this law and the Child Protective System:
We have a system that I think in some ways values finality over accuracy.
Dan Hilbert also has “great concerns about due process for all individuals.”
It is now my understanding of that law that even if something that happened in the past can be proven wrong, no matter what, it can still be used against a parent without any recourse whatsoever in its application in the new case.
For Johnna, this law is personal. It is how the state was able to take her newest baby from her. The change in the law:
makes it so I cannot go back to court and prove my innocence.
In criminal court in prison if you go to prison for something you didn’t do and later you can prove that you didn’t do it, they’ll give you another trial, and they’ll give you a chance to free yourself.
That doesn’t exist.
The removal of the Nexus law now makes it so that if your rights are ever terminated to one child, you can never have a child again in the future.
My family’s gone. I can never have another child.
Johnna has affidavits and depositions from people willing to testify on her behalf. She has the medical records that she didn’t have before, and she now has a much better understanding of what happened in the hospital. But none of that seems to matter.
How You Can Help
There is a Facebook page that has been set up in honor of Baby Gabriel where supporters can follow the family’s story and find ways to help – Gabriel Michael James Furman.
Johnna Furman has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit for Gabriel’s wrongful death. She is clear that this is about justice:
I don’t want money; I just want my babies.
Court will be held on Tuesday, April 24 at 9 a.m. at the Duval County Courthouse at 501 W Adams St, Jacksonville, FL 32202.
Johnna plans to hold a peaceful protest rally before the hearing, beginning at 8 a.m. According to a post on her Facebook page:
We have court on 4-24-18 and I am planning to write a motion to stop my lawsuit ONLY if they agree to apologize formally for what they have done to my family by blaming me and making me look like a monster, so we can save mine and others! They have silenced my lawsuit attorneys who filed everything for me with their threats!
I want to hold a peaceful protest outside of the courtroom an hour before court, taping a dollar to everyone’s mouth, for all of the mouths they have silenced and will silence in the future if we don’t put a stop to this!
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