By DONNA KOEHN
The Tampa TribunePublished: May 18, 2007
A seemingly healthy woman, a dancer, isn't supposed to die after childbirth. A new dad is supposed to hand out cigars, not reel from the shock of such an improbable tragedy. Caroline Wiren, 34, wife of Tampa Bay Storm player Nyle Wiren, succumbed to excessive bleeding Wednesday in the hours after the birth of their first child.
Family members tried to comprehend how it could have happened in an era when a happy outcome is almost a matter of course."It's just really hard to describe. It's really a surreal thing," says Chris Still, Caroline Wiren's older brother. "You're so happy for the new life that's come into the world, and you see Caroline within the new life. But then to lose Caroline, the sister that I've known for 34 years, and to know that she's not going to be with us anymore and can't see her child brought up. Honestly, it overcomes, for the moment, the joy of the baby."We're really just overcome with grief, and I'm sure that the joy will come.
"Only about 10 maternal deaths per 100,000 births occurred in the United States in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. About 17 percent are due to postpartum emorrhaging.
"Death is exceedingly rare," says Cathy Lynch, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida and director of the ob-gyn Division for USF Health. "The numbers also include ectopic pregnancies and other problems. When we read and hear about a woman who seems fit and goes in for a normal procedure and then dies, people get shaken up."Of course, we don't know the full story yet and if there was a risk factor."Amniotic embolisms sometimes cause unpredictable and uncontrolled bleeding, Lynch says, although they are "very, very, very rare." An autopsy would be the only way to know whether that was the cause of death. Even in a hospital setting, "the body can't clot, and you can't stop the bleeding," she says.
The baby, who remains at St. Joseph's Hospital, is a large, healthy baby, at 9 pounds, 3 ounces. Macrosomia, or heavy birth weight, is hard to detect before birth and doesn't necessarily require special treatment, according to medical journals. A recent study reported that excessive bleeding occurred in mothers with babies larger than 9 pounds, 15 ounces in 3.1 percent of those births.
Caroline Wiren was in her fourth season as head coach of the Sun Dolls, the USF dance team. She danced one season for the Storm and was co-director of its dance team from 2003 to 2005. She also was a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader for two seasons.
Nyle Wiren, a Storm player since 1998, was too grief-stricken to comment Thursday."Nyle, I think, just can't talk right now," says Caroline Wiren's mother, Jane Still. Caroline will be buried in Oxford, Miss., her parents' home, Still says.
"I can't imagine the depth of this loss," says Sheryle Baker, executive director of the Life Center of Tampa, a nonprofit organization that specializes in counseling after a traumatic loss. "This is a family looking forward to a new birth. They will have to pull together to cope with the fact that there is a newborn to look after, too."Tammy Alsing, manager of bereavement counseling for LifePath Hospice in Tampa, considers support for the family crucial."It will be difficult for someone who has suffered a loss of this kind to fully immerse themselves in the grieving process," she says. "With all the shock and denial, there will be all of the things that will need to be done for the infant before they can connect to their grief." When a woman's husband dies while she is pregnant or soon after the birth, she sometimes turns to nurturing the child for comfort, Alsing says. "I wonder if a husband in this situation would feel a huge sense of helplessness," she says. "He hasn't had nine months to really get ready to take on this job.
"Grief counselors agree that families in similar situations often respond with anger, directing that toward the hospital, the doctors or God.Sandi Sunter of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in St. Petersburg says everyone grieves differently. But one reaction is similar."The future in grief seems so dark," she says. "So many people in grief can't see the light at the end of the tunnel."In this situation, you almost have two paradigms - the hopelessness about the future and then the fact that the child is the future. What will life be like without the mom?"