On January 22, 1980, Vanessa Preston, the 22-year-old wife of a local minister, went with her husband and small son to Fairmount Clinic in Dallas. There, National Abortion Federation member Curtis Boyd performed a safe, legal dilaton and extraction abortion on her. During the abortion, Vanessa went into a grand mal siezure and then into cardiac arrest.
To the credit of Boyd and the Fairmount staff, emergency procedures were immediately instituted. An ambulance was summoned, and Boyd and a nurse performed CPR and got Vanessa's heart to beat again.
Before the ambulance arrived, Vanessa again went into cardiac arrest. Again, staff at Fairmount performed CPR. Paramedics and staff stabilized Vanessa for transport to the hospital.
About 40 minutes into exploratory surgery, trying to address a retained placenta and multiple vaginal punctures, Vanessa again went into cardiac arrest. She was given a total of 24 units of blood to try to keep her circulation entact despite her massive, unstoppable blood loss. For an hour and a half, hospital staff tried in vain to resuscitate Vanessa before finally pronouncing her dead.
An autopsy revealed that she had developed amniotic fluid embolism (AFE - amniotic fluid in the mother's bloodstream) and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC - a blood clotting disorder) during the abortion. This is what caused her cardiac arrest. When Boyd's staff resuscitated Vanessa, they caused a small laceration of her liver. This is typical in even properly performed CPR, and is not usually life-threatening. However, because of the DIC, Vanessa's blood couldn't clot, and she bled to death from the liver laceration. Since second-trimester evacuation abortions were still new (read "experimental") at the time, Boyd and his staff didn't realize that there was a risk of DIC.
Boyd, to his credit, reported Vanessa's death to the Centers for Disease Control. He also wrote a medical journal article about her death, warning other abortionists that DIC could occur during second-trimester evacuation abortions.
Sources: Dallas Morning News 1/24/80, 1/25/80; American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 10/1/81; Texas Autopsy Report No. 0190-80-0095; Texas Death Certificate 07018
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