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Pregnant mother dies after being given pain medication at California hospital, family left with questions

Young mom's OB-GYN is on probation for negligence, sexual misconduct
Posted at 3:24 PM, Jan 14, 2020

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A family is devastated and traumatized after they say their loved one died after being admitted into Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, California.

The family told KERO that Sabrina De La Rosa was a healthy mother of three who was about to give birth again. On January 9, 2020, De La Rosa was experiencing pain from contractions. She was given pain medication and was told she would be discharged. Moments later, the family was notified that De La Rosa was admitted to the hospital.

According to De La Rosa's family, the nurse informed them that her OB-GYN, Dr. Jason Helliwell, approved pain medication that was administered to De La Rosa.

KERO has previously reported that Helliwell is facing 32 felony charges for making false claims for health benefits. The California Medical Board currently has Helliwell on probation for gross negligence and sexual misconduct. KERO reached out to Helliwell's office who said they have no comment. Helliwell's next court appearance for the felony charges is February 26, 2020.

According to De La Rosa's family, she was first given a shot of pain medication. The family said the nurse never disclosed what the medication was. Family members told KERO De La Rosa screamed in pain when receiving the injection.

"Her mother asked what she was giving her and she (the nurse) said, 'I gave her 100 milliliters of fentanyl ,' " said Mariah Borgna, a family member of De La Rosa. Borgna said that's how the family found out the dosage and the name of the pain medication that was administered.

Within the hour, additional pain medication was administered through an IV drip. Approximately an hour later, family members said De La Rosa passed out and went into a seizure. De La Rosa was unresponsive, and her family said nurses filled the room to begin performing CPR.

"They never once asked the family to go sit in another room while they worked on her. We were all standing right there watching them do chest compressions," Borgna said.

Fentanyl, an opioid, is often given as a pain reliever to women during the child birth process. However, family members told KERO they are left wondering if fentanyl was the only pain medication option, and they still want to know why De La Rosa died.

"They did CPR for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then they did an emergency C-section to remove the baby from Sabrina," Borgna said.

The family said nurses filled the hospital room trying to perform life-saving measures on De La Rosa for more than an hour.

"They never once cleaned her up. They didn't clean up the room, there was still blood completely in the room. Blood still leaking from her arm. She was covered in blood from head to toe. I'm assuming because of the C-section because it's a lot of blood," Borgna said.

The family said they had to ask nurses to clean up De La Rosa for the rest of the family to say their goodbyes.

"We asked the nurse, 'could you please go in there and clean her up, so no one else has to experience that?' " Borgna said.

Although the family is still dealing with painful memories, they are thankful that baby Jaxx is happy and healthy. However, De La Rosa's grieving family said they still have more questions than answers.

"We wanted her to come home she was suppose to come home," Borgna said.

Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield released the statement below Monday.

"Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family of Sabrina De La Rosa for their loss. The death of a patient is always difficult for everyone involved. An open and transparent dialogue between hospital leadership and Sabrina’s family is ongoing to assist them during this difficult time. Safety and patient care are our highest priorities and the case is currently under review. Consistent with patient privacy laws and hospital policy, we do not discuss the specifics of any patient’s care."

This story was originally published by Alex Bell on KERO.