Nine months after the birth of her daughter Cali, Delfina Mota vividly recalls the horrible pain of her C-section delivery, without anesthesia.
"Once I felt it, I was just screaming like, 'Stop. I can feel it. I can feel it.’ And after that, I'm pretty sure I passed out from the pain," Mota told NBC Investigates in her first public interview about baby Cali’s birth.
Mota and Cali's father, her fiance Paul Iheanachor, are suing Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, their surgeon and their anesthesiologist for pain and suffering and other civil wrongdoing.
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Their lawsuit claims Mota was forced to go without proper and normal anesthesia for her emergency C-section because the anesthesiologist on-call could not be found and did not respond to numerous pages from hospital staff.
“It was like something out of a horror movie,” Mota recalled. “You can't imagine. I would rather have delivered her vaginally, with no medicine, than being cut with a knife."
Tri-City Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment from NBC 7 Investigates, when we broke this story last week.
But when other media outlets, including Time and People magazines, the Huffington Post and Daily Caller, and TV outlets from Florida to Canada, picked up the story, Tri-City fired back.
A spokesperson for the Medical Center at first declined to comment directly on the allegations, but noted that “Patient safety and quality are the utmost priorities for Tri-City Medical Center.”
Then, late last Friday, August 3, as the story kept spreading, Tri-City released another statement.
“While we normally don’t comment on pending litigation, the patient’s public discussion of the care she received during her emergency C-section compels us to address this outrageous allegation,” said Aaron Byzak, Tri-City’s Chief Government and External Affairs Officer. “The patient was administered anesthesia prior to surgery."
Byzak declined to elaborate on that statement, and would not explain what type of anesthesia Mota received. But Mota’s attorney told NBC 7 Investigates his client’s medical records confirm the only pain medication Mota received was an epidural, given to her while she prepared for a normal, vaginal birth, hours before her emergency C-section.
"I fully anticipated this defense, because that's what they have to do,” said attorney Norman Finkelstein. “They have to come up with something to defend their actions, or in this case, their inactions."
But Finkelstein said medical experts agree that epidurals do not provide appropriate pain relief for C-sections.
"It's not going to have any impact on the area of the body that's being operated on,” Finkelstein explained. He said that although Mota did get an epidural to numb her vaginal area, it was “worthless” because it provided no pain relief for the abdominal C-section. “Unfortunately for my client, the (epidural) had no effect on the part of the body that they were operating on.”
The anesthesiologist, Dr. David Seif, responded through a representative of the Anesthesia Service Medical Group, of which Seif is a member.
“The group, on behalf of Dr. Seif, is confident that anesthesia services would have been available, and were available (for Mota),” the group’s representative wrote in an email to NBC 7 Investigates. “Additionally, the group and Dr. Seif are confident that the care provided by Dr. Seif was appropriate under the circumstances.”
The surgeon, Dr. Sandra Lopez, did not reply to a request for comment about the lawsuit.