Infant’s death at hospital brings mother’s outrage

Dominique Simmons’ daughter, Divinity Nubia Reid, was pronounced dead on Friday, March 25, at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

SUMMIT, NJ — For Dominique Simmons, of East Orange, March 25 is a night she will never forget.

“I brought my daughter to the hospital. I wanted to make sure she could breathe. Something was blocking her throat,” Simmons said in an interview with Union County LocalSource on Friday, May 13. “I brought her to Overlook Hospital. I was just going to go to any normal hospital in Essex County, but the doula who helps assist with home births said she takes her kids to Overlook Hospital. I’m a transportation driver for Life Ride. I knew where it was because I dropped a lot of people over there.”

After speaking to someone in triage at approximately 2 a.m., Simmons said they put a wristband on her child, weighed her and then laid her down to be examined by a doctor.

“I made some phone calls and I came back into the (exam) room, and the doctors said she’s not breathing OK,” continued Simmons. “I see four doctors pumping her heart in the emergency room. I hear them calling out numbers, and finally the doctor says he’s not getting a pulse from her, and he says to my husband and me that she didn’t make it. It’s my first child. … They pronounced my daughter deceased.

“I held my baby for three weeks and she was breathing fine” prior to that night, Simmons said, questioning what the doctors did and did not do. As for getting more information that night, “the doctor said he’d have to wait until the medical examiner told us the cause of death. They took her to the morgue.”

The first thing Simmons did was file a police report.

According to the Summit Police Department operations report, after interviewing Simmons, “the death of the infant is being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, East Orange police, as well as the DCPP (Division of Childhood Protection and Permanency) agency.”

“The medical examiner and eight police came to my home, asking me questions,” Simmons said. “Then a detective came from East Orange.”

According to Simmons, DCPP, formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services, or DYFS, asked about the baby and her medical history.

“The medical examiner had an eight-page questionnaire, asking things like how she was sleeping, how I fed her, and she was breastfed. I told them I didn’t have any complications (prior to that night). Everything was OK.”

According to Simmons, the hospital has not been forthcoming with information about her child’s death.

“They said the medical records are locked up,” Simmons said. “Six days later, they said my baby’s cause of death was cardiac arrest. On her medical record, they said she had malnutrition, was malnourished, that her chest was caved in. I’m a holistic person. I don’t eat processed food. My baby was very healthy.”

While Simmons says that she was told her child died of cardiac arrest, she still has not received an official notice of this or a death certificate.

“I have talked to a lawyer, but they’re waiting for a cause of death. I’m waiting for a death certificate,” she said.

Simmons said she had hired Ben Crump, a civil rights activist and lawyer, to represent her. LocalSource tried repeatedly to reach Crump, but calls were not returned.

After Simmons had spoken to Patricia Sohler, Overlook Hospital’s director of patient safety and risk management, on Friday, May 27, she said, “(Sohler) told me they didn’t talk to me before (that day) because I was grieving and (the death of) my baby was under investigation, so they didn’t think it was right at the time.”

When LocalSource contacted Sohler on Friday, May 27, for comment, Sohler referred the newspaper to Rob Seman, Overlook Hospital’s public relations manager. Seman told the newspaper that he was unable to comment, due to legal reasons.

“I let the police department know I wanted to do a protest (on Thursday, May 26), and they called the hospital and then (Sohler) called me,” Simmons said. “I don’t think they would have reached out to me if the police hadn’t called them. They said they wanted to give me grieving time.

“No one came to my aid that night,” she continued. “I don’t trust them to make proper medical records.”

Simmons believes the hospital is guilty of medical neglect.

“You cost me a child,” she said.

Photo Courtesy of Dominique Simmons