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Midwifery license revoked in Arizona after death of wife and child

PHOENIX (AZFamily) – The state plans to revoke the license of an Arizona midwife after a mother and her baby died in childbirth in Safford.

It happened after they were in her care for a home birth in December.

Arizona's family learned that this was not the first time something had gone wrong with this midwife, and that there were several documented allegations dating back years.

These past violations are troubling and frustrating for Parker Terry, who says he lost everything because they trusted someone who he believes should have had his license revoked years ago.

“I just miss her. She should be here,” Terry said through tears. “She should be here, raising her kids and being with me.”

Last Christmas was supposed to be a celebration of joy for Terry and his growing family, but instead it was marked by tragedy. In December, he lost his wife Jordan and newborn son Mack within hours of each other following complications during a home birth.

“Her face was getting paler and paler and I pointed it out to Sarah, but she just ignored me and said she was fine,” Terry said. “When she went completely unconscious, of course I freaked out and Sarah just said, 'It's OK. She's just in shock.'”

Terry says he eventually took her to the hospital and Jordan was then flown by helicopter to another hospital. But she did not survive and Mack was stillborn.

Late last year, Parker Terry lost his wife Jordan and newborn son Mack within hours of complications during a home birth.(Courtesy of Parker Terry)

He blames the state-certified midwife Sarah Kankiewicz for this.

Terry says his wife's last coherent words were a cry for help.

“Even after Sarah said, 'I want to go to the hospital,' she always said, 'You can do it.' 'No, you can do it. You can do it,'” Terry said.

He says they hired Kankiewicz based on a recommendation from a friend and her claim that she specializes in VBAC births. VBAC is short for vaginal birth after cesarean section, which doctors say is high-risk and can, in rare cases, lead to uterine rupture.

Terry says this is what happened to Jordan after they trusted Kankiewicz.

“She said everything we wanted to hear,” Terry said.

Jordan was 28 and worked as an emergency room nurse in Safford.

She has two other children who were born in the hospital. Her daughter was a cesarean section and her son was a vaginal-vaginal birth.

Terry says she dreamed of becoming a midwife and wanted to experience a home birth herself so she could better help her future patients.

“Her passion was babies,” Terry said. “She wanted to take care of babies. She wanted to help bring them into the world.”

Following the deaths of Jordan and Mack, a complaint was filed against Kankiewicz with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Records show she received five citations for failing to call emergency services immediately after Jordan's lips turned white, for failing to follow hygiene protocols and for not checking her vital signs or vent frequently enough. The report says a midwife should not have performed a VBAC based on Jordan's medical history.

ADHS then filed a notice of intent to revoke its license. The full notice is at the end of this report.

“There was negligence and because of that negligence two people lost their lives,” Terry said.

This is not the first time the state has found deficiencies in Kankiewicz's care. Heather Flowers filed a complaint after she herself had a traumatic experience during a birth in which Kankiewicz was her midwife four years ago.

“I could see there was a tear. I didn't know how big it was, but I was in shock and completely numb,” Flowers said. “My daughter didn't react either. She was completely blue.”

An investigation found that Kankiewicz had worked outside her scope of practice, failed to check vital signs frequently enough and downplayed Flowers' severe laceration.

“We survived, you know, but my biggest fear was that this could happen to another mother and baby, which is why I reported her to the state,” Flowers said.

Licensed since 2020, Kankiewicz has received five civil penalties from the ADHS for failing to file paperwork on time. Records show thousands of dollars in fines for repeat violations that could be significantly reduced if paid promptly.

Kankiewicz posted about it on social media and even wrote: “Why do I have a driver’s license again?!”

“Nothing was really done,” Flowers said. “A little slap on the wrist and now we have the loss of Jordan and her son Mack.”

Between Flowers and Terry's charges, another charge was filed, and an investigation that resulted in additional subpoenas was completed in November 2023. That was just one month before Jordan and Mack's deaths.

The November report prompted ADHS to file a notice of intent to suspend her license in January after it was discovered that Kankiewicz continued treating a mother after she was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“We didn't know there were these citations. We didn't know there were other deficiency reports. We didn't know there were fines,” Terry said.

The state confirmed to Arizona's family on Thursday that her license remains valid, meaning she can continue to practice while the investigation continues.

But in a recent social media post, Kankiewicz said she has decided to surrender her license and permanently retire from her current practice.

“Where is the responsibility? Where are the consequences?” said Terry.

Terry believes his wife and son would still be alive if the state had taken earlier complaints more seriously. Now he is pushing for change, saying more oversight and regulation of midwives is needed.

“The system is broken. There are errors, there are gaps, there are loopholes, there are grey areas,” he said.

Safford police say Kankiewicz is under investigation but no charges have been filed.

Arizona's family contacted Kankiewicz, who said she had no comment due to the ongoing investigation.

ADHS issued the following statement Thursday afternoon: “We recognize the sensitivity of the issue. This is an ongoing and open enforcement action. We will not be releasing any further details at this time.”

Midwife classification

It is important to note that there are two types of midwives in Arizona and both are legal.

The nursing board oversees certified nurse midwives, who are registered nurses who pursue advanced nursing degrees to become nurse midwives. They are under the jurisdiction of the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

In addition to the nursing and midwifery requirements and standards set forth in the Arizona Nurse Practice Act, you are required to adhere to the standards for nurses and midwives.

There are also non-nurse midwives who, like Kankiewicz, receive national certification and are subject to regulation by ADHS.

Complaints can be filed for both types, here for midwives and here for non-nurses. Records of any summonses are also publicly available.

The bottom line is that if a patient or family is looking for a midwife with nursing training, they should contact a certified nurse. A good way to check their status is nursys.com, which claims to be the only national database of nursing licensure and disciplinary records.

Or contact the Arizona State Board of Nursing online here or by phone at 602-771-7800.

More information about non-nurse midwives can be found in a dedicated section on the ADHD website here.

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Anna Harden

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