By: Sammy Wang
On May 2, 2023, American track and field athlete, Tori Bowie, died at 32 from childbirth. She died in her house undergoing labor, and the local sheriff found her body when they went over to check if Bowie was doing well when she wasn’t seen for several days.
Associate Medical Examiner Chantel Njiwaji wrote in Bowie’s autopsy report that she possibly went through respiratory distress and eclampsia. Respiratory distress occurs when fluids collect in the lungs’ air sacs, making it difficult for the person to breathe. Eclampsia is a set of seizures caused by preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a disorder that makes pregnant women have high blood pressure, which causes symptoms like impaired liver function, kidney dysfunction, swelling, etc.
The National Institutes of Health states, "Preeclampsia is a sudden spike in blood pressure; Eclampsia is more severe and can include seizures or coma."
In her recent interview with Sean Gregory, retired track and field athlete Allyson Felix was devastated by the news of her former teammate. She has brought up the awareness of the dangers of pregnancy, especially for black women.
“Like so many Black women, I was unaware of the risks I faced while pregnant. According to the CDC, in 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 2.6 times the rate for White women” Felix said, “That needs to change, now, especially in light of Tori’s tragic passing. Awareness is huge. I hate that it takes Tori’s situation to put this back on the map and to get people to pay attention to it. But oftentimes, we need that wake-up call.”
The National Institutes of Health has noted that Black Americans have a higher risk of preeclampsia and eclampsia, resulting in a higher chance of death after childbirth.
Around 69.9 of 100,000 Black Americans die from labor, which is 2.6 times higher than the rate of White women. Felix is pushing doctors to be more aware of childbirth complications for black women.
Even though Bowie is gone now, she was a role model for many people. From earning the title of “world’s fastest runner” to being a good friend and teammate, she will always be remembered as a persistent athlete who didn’t let anything get in the way of her dreams.