Phyllis Ann Thompson-Green is very brave. But the honest truth is, her world came to an abrupt halt this summer when her beloved daughter, Kelsey Michele (Thompson) Wallace—one known and loved by many all over this country— died suddenly during childbirth at a California hospital.
Phyllis is now painfully grieving for her 30-year-old daughter, Kelsey or “Bella,” as she was affectionately known.
Formerly of Bedford County, Kelsey was a Shelbyville Central High cheerleader and went on to cheer for Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, where she was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.—Eta Psi Chapter. She graduated in 2014 from MTSU with a bachelor’s degree in education. Her mom shares memories of how “Bella” loved working at Dancy’s dance studio on the public square for many years. She also assisted in a lot of pageants.
After moving to the West Coast, where her husband, Marcus, is stationed, she went to work in human resources and later serve as “the best mother and wife she could be”—words of adoration written in her obituary.
She and husband and their two children, seemed to be living a great life on the West Coast.
Soon, it was time to have another baby, little Beaux, who would survive his mom.
Due to childbirth complications, Kelsey will not have the opportunity to blow out the candles on her 40th birthday cake or see her children graduate from high school.
Since her daughter’s passing on July 16, her mom, Phyllis, has had many questions relating to how her daughter could die this day and time in childbirth.
Could her death have easily been prevented?
Phyllis has researched how death during childbirth is more common than one might think in 2021, particularly within the African-American community.
According to a 2019 article from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women—a disparity which increases with age.
The CDC notes while most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths have persisted over time, according to the CDC. Pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births (the pregnancy-related mortality ratio or PRMR) for black and AI/ AN women older than 30 was four to five times as high as it was for white women.
Even in states with the lowest PRMRs and among women with higher levels of education, significant differences persist. These findings suggest that the disparities observed in pregnancy-related deaths for black and AI/AN women is still a complex national problem.
“These disparities are devastating for families and communities and we must work to eliminate them,” said Emily Petersen, medical officer at CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and lead author of the report.
“There is an urgent need to identify and evaluate the complex factors contributing to these disparities and to design interventions that will reduce preventable pregnancy-related deaths.”
What apparently went wrong?
Phyllis describes the day Kelsey Michele, “Bella” was about to give birth. She also remembers getting the call a while later from her son-in-law—one which revealed her youngest daughter did not survive.
The local mom was stunned, to say-the-least. This now marks three deaths in her immediate family in the last 2 years; she grieves the lost her husband, mother and now, her youngest daughter.
Phyllis tells of how Kelsey had previously undergone two Caesarean section deliveries or C-sections, as they’re commonly known, with her other two children.
Secure in having a vaginal birth with the third, as she strived to bring her youngest, Beaux, into this world, Kelsey suffered fatal heart failure.
Isn’t this archaic, that is for this to happen in today’s hospitals some might ask?
For years, it was believed that the safest choice after giving birth via Cesarean was another Cesarean delivery, Phyllis reveals.
But now, guidelines have apparently changed—those which apparently did not ensure Kelsey’s health and safety.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a vaginal birth after Cesarean, also known as VBAC, can be a safe and appropriate option. The group also states that VBAC can work for many women who’ve had one, or even two, previous Cesarean deliveries.
Sadly, Kelsey’s family cannot say their experience was positive, except that little Beaux survived. Marcus is now charged with raising his children as a single parent.
Bedford County was home
Phyllis and friends shared many fond memories of when Kelsey grew up here in Bedford County, during her recent funeral services.
Her mother reveals that due to Kelsey’s popularity, she had to have the funeral at Fairlane Church of Christ, instead of the smaller chapel of Bird Street Church of Christ, where they’re members.
Kelsey was buried in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens off Madison Street.
Surviving her in addition to her husband and mother is a daughter, Bexley Shang Klark LittleJohn and another son, Braxton Andrew Clark Wallace. Kelsey is also survived by her father, George Tyron Hudspeth, and a grandmother, Marva Hudspeth, both of Mount Pleasant. Marcus’ parents also survive, Andrew and Sheila Wallace. She was preceded in death by her stepfather, Clifton Clark Green, who helped rear her and grandparents, Charles and Emma Thompson and William Hudspeth.
Phyllis cries when she explains how her child’s life goal was simple: to be loved.
“She did that with her unique southern charm and hilarity. Kelsey loved all things related to cheer, dance and pageantry.”
She participated in pageant competitions across middle Tennessee, including Miss Black and Gold. So much so, Phyllis is contemplating the start of a scholarship in her daughter’s memory.
She was touched, she says, during the recent Bedford County Fair, when crowns were given out to non-placing contestants—something her daughter often did with her own pageant crowns— in Kelsey’s memory.
Phyllis cries deeply as she says, “She touched so many people.” She says there are so many people as well to thank for their kindness, love, gifts and cards and she likely will never get all the necessary notes written. Her sorrow is a deep one, particularly given the shock.
But she wants those who shared their love recently for Kelsey and family to know the depth of their gratitude.
“We are grateful for friends, family and the community . . . at this time of sorrow. We are blessed to have a loving community that loved our Bella Wallace.”
Pregnancy-related death numbers
The CDC’s Pregnancy-Related Surveillance System (PMSS) defines a pregnancy-related death as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy from a pregnancy complication; a chain of events initiated by pregnancy; or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy.
A CDC study, based on analysis of national data on pregnancy-related mortality from 2007-2016, found that:
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