Tameka McFarquhar

Tameka McFarquhar was 22 years old when she bled to death in her Watertown apartment several days after giving birth in December, 2004, to her first child. An Army office clerk, the Jamaica-born soldier was sent to Fort Drum from South Korea to have her baby. She never named the father of her baby. She was reportedly discharged from Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown on December 14, a day after giving birth to her daughter, Danasia Elizabeth. She was on 30-day convalescent leave from the Army. Last seen by her friend, Connie Daniels, on December 19, she and her baby were found dead at her apartment on Christmas morning. Tameka's father, Seymour McFarquhar, who ilves in New York City, told the Jamaica Online Star that he had spoken to her on the night of the 15th. "I called her after she left the hosiptal, and when she got home she never called. When we spoke to her Sunday night [the 19th], it was about 9 p.m. A friend called her the next day but didn't get a response."

The friend, Connie Daniels, had babysat for Danasia Elizabeth on the 19th. She told The Star that she got no answer when she called Tameka on the 20th. On Friday [December 24], she went to the Watertown police department to ask if they could get someone to enter the apartment but was told this would be impossible "without probable cause."

Tameka's mother, Frances, who lives in Kingston, Jamaica, told John Golden, a reporter from The Watertown Daily Times, that she had spoken to her daughter on the night of December 19th just after Tameka had returned from grocery shopping at the post commissary. She said that her daughter hadn't mentioned any discomfort or bleeding from her recent delivery but that she had a slight headache. Mrs. McFarquhar believes that her daughter died that night.

Four months later, surviving family members were still waiting for a report from the Army's Criminal Investigation Division at Fort Drum. As of April 4, 2005, they had not been contacted by officials at Samaritan Medical Center nor by the Jefferson County medical examiner either. Mrs. Frances McFarquhar told John Golden, "I'm asking, if after she delivers, somebody doesn't realize that something was wrong? If you don't pass the placenta, somebody should know that they didn't take all or that it was broken," she said. "Somebody should know that."

Mrs. Frances McFarquhar was right. Somebody should have taken better care of her daughter and granddaughter.

The Jefferson County medical examiner reported that the cause of death was "placenta increta," a diagnosis that is a little hard to accept, since this would have meant that Tameka was discharged from the hospital with the placenta inside her uterus. A placenta increta is a condition in which the placenta actually attaches itself rather deeply into the uterine wall and has to be removed in an operating room under anesthesia because its removal is so painful and can cause a serious hemorrhage. The term, placenta increta, is not applied to the condition in which a fragment of placenta or placental membrane is left inside, which is more likely what happened in Tameka McFarquhar's case. The latter condition could explain the late postpartum hemorrhage, which is most likely the cause of Tameka's death and could also explain the headache that Frances McFarquhar recalls her daughter mentioning.

Whatever happened, it should be clear that Tameka McFarquhar's and Danasia Elizabeth McFarquhar's deaths could have been prevented if there had been a system of postpartum followup care in place. Among developed countries, the United States is one of the only ones that doesn't routinely send a nurse for a couple of postpartum visits during the week following early discharge from hospital. This lack of sufficient postpartum care for new mothers is especially dangerous in the case of single mothers, when the mother will be at home alone, as Tameka McFarquhar was. If a bit of placental tissue had been left inside, this would have been apparent to a nurse or midwife, who would have been able to notice slight symptoms (uterine soreness and possibly an elevated temperature) before a life-threatening condition developed.

Tameka and Danasia Elizabeth McFarquhar's bodies were flown to Jamaica for burial.