Hospital sends baby's body home in a cooler
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)— A Chattanooga woman, who mourns the loss of her child over the weekend, says the hospital put her baby's body in a cooler and sent her home.
Melvina Brown gave birth Sunday at Erlanger.
Just hours later, believing she had no other choice, Brown went home with her baby's body, in a styrofoam cooler.
She says she asked the hospital if they could keep the baby while she decided what to do, but says there was so much confusion, she just signed the papers.
At 22, Melvina Brown has had her share of heartache.
With two prior miscarriages, she lost her third child after carrying him for 19 weeks on Sunday.
Brown tells Channel 3 she started having contractions last Thursday morning, after visiting her doctor she was admitted to Erlanger hospital later that day.
"By that time, I already knew in my mind I was going to lose my baby and it hurt so bad," says Brown.
Brown explains that doctors at Erlanger Medical Center spent two days trying to stop her contractions, and even performed surgery.
Still, her water broke, and Sunday morning she gave birth to a premature baby boy.
She and her boyfriend named him Tristan.
"When they brought him back into the room I looked at him, he was gone," says Brown.
When the time came for the mother to go home, the hospital staff asked her what arrangements would be made for her son.
"They came in the room and she said that they could keep him until I make funeral arrangements, but I told her that I couldn't afford that," says Brown.
Brown says the nurse left, then came back later with different information.
"She came back and she told me, by him having a heartbeat that they couldn't keep him," she says.
Brown says that's when the hospital gave her papers, which she later realized were release forms.
"I had so many different nurses coming in with different stuff," she says. "My mind was so distraught I didn't know."
She signed the papers and a few hours later she says the nurse handed her a styrofoam cooler as she left the hospital.
"She told me at the last minute that he was going to be in a cooler and I would have to get the right permits and stuff to bury him," says Brown.
But the mother doesn't want to bury her child on her own, and doesn't know what she'll do yet. She and her family are still making those decisions.
"I don't think it's right for me to have to bring my child home and bury him in my own back yard," Brown says.
Channel 3 checked with Hamilton County and learned people can by buried on a family's private property if they have a designated burial plot, and permission from county officials.
Melvina Brown doesn't have a burial plot, nor does she want to bury her child in her back yard.
She says she can't understand why the hospital couldn't just keep her baby.
"I have no reason to lie, this is my child," Brown says. "I just want him to be put to rest and in peace."
Monday Brown tells Channel 3 that she did return her baby to Erlanger Sunday night, at the hospital's urging.
Erlanger representatives wouldn't comment on this case specifically.
In a statement Erlanger did tell Eyewitness News, "In the event of a live birth, pathology cannot accept the baby due to state laws. The family may either make arrangements with a license funeral director or may choose a private burial adhering to their county regulations."
The statement also says the hospital will properly store a baby's body until arrangements are made by the parents, but a supervisor will release the remains to the parents if they want to transport the body themselves.
Like Erlanger, Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville has a morgue.
There, parents are given the option to leave their baby until arrangements are made, regardless of whether the child was born still or alive.
Vanderbilt also offers free cremation.
Melvina doesn't have a burial plot, nor does she want to bury her child in her backyard.