Valerie Scythes

Valerie Scythes, like her friend, Melissa Farah (who is also honored in the Safe Motherhood Quilt), was a teacher at Avon Elementary School in Woodbury, New Jersey. In March, 2007, parents and students at the school threw a surprise baby shower for them.

On March 28, Valerie Scythes, 35, gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Isabella Rose, by cesarean section. According to a spokesman from Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, Ms. Scythes died that same day from an unknown cause. Final autopsy results were still pending a month and a half following her death. According to Richard Bellamente, a spokeman for Underwood, the hospital has “never’ had a maternal death there, but he would not discuss the case with reporters, saying, “Hospital policy and practice is to refrain from disclosing protected health information.”

Marie McCullough, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, analyzed billing records that “showed that between 2001 and 2005, seven obstetric patients were transferred to other medical facilities.” It is not known how many of these seven women may have died.

A news report remarked that Robert Debbs, an obstetrician at Pennsylvania Hospital, who also works at Underwood and is familiar with both the cases of both women, said this: “The Underwood cases were both catastrophic complications that could have occurred anywhere in the country and were unpreventable.” Dr. Debbs gave no reason why both women had cesareans instead of vaginal births.

According to Dr. Louis Weinstein, chief of obstetrics at Jefferson University Hospital, “It’s like winning the lottery—a bad one.”

Following Scythes’ death, a letter went out to teachers’ of the area’s school district. According to McCullough’s report, the president of the parent-teacher association, Melissa Farah said, “Oh my God. Is this going to happen to me?”

“We tried to reassure her and said: ‘No, no. It was just a freak thing.”

Valerie Scythes was born February 1, 1972. She like making individual, handmade Christmas ornaments for her students each year. Her husband, James Scythes is a college history professor in Woodbury.