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One year, one of the few black students at my high school found a noose hanging in his locker one day. The culprit — a white student — was quickly discovered, and all he had to do to get out of trouble was issue a lame apology. I thought his punishment should have been more severe. I convinced my best friend to wear black armbands in school to protest.

This act earned me no greater respect, and actually greater ridicule. Several of our teachers thought it was funny and even prompted our classmates to laugh at our expense: Looking back, I realize that, apart from my black armband episode, my survival strategy was to make myself as non-threatening as possible.

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I became so well-practiced in the art of not offending racist white people that I ceased to become outraged by them, at least when they affected me directly. I knew how to enter a store, to make eye contact with someone who worked there, to smile and say hello as if to say: While shopping, I still assume that I am suspect. There was a moment in my adulthood when I decided that the present order is intolerable and a new world is both possible and necessary. In the grand scheme of things, my experiences of everyday racism are not that important. I am neither the most privileged nor most oppressed.

I know that there are people of all stripes who are trying to survive on this planet with fewer resources than I have. I am consistently inspired by the words of the early 20th-century socialist Eugene V Debs a white guy! I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

I am also inspired by the words of Malcolm X, who summarized the goals of the black movement as: Respect as human beings! The internet is full of great resources, including BlackDoctor. You are your own best advocate. Fibromyalgia is already an invisible illness, and the taboos around pain and race prevent patients from getting their best care. You know your body better than anyone, so take ownership of it. What is your experience as a person of color dealing with healthcare providers? Let us know in the comments. African-Americans have higher rates of C-section and are more than twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital in the month following the surgery.

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Growing up black in America: here's my story of everyday racism

They have disproportionate rates of hypertensive disorders and peripartum cardiomyopathy pregnancy-induced heart failure , two leading killers in the days and weeks after delivery. They're twice as likely as white women to have postpartum depression, which contributes to poor outcomes, but they are much less likely to receive mental health treatment.

If they experience discrimination or disrespect during pregnancy or childbirth, they are more likely to skip postpartum visits to check on their own health they do keep pediatrician appointments for their babies. In one study published earlier this year, two-thirds of low-income black women never made it to their doctor visit.

Meanwhile, many providers wrongly assume that the risks end when the baby is born — and that women who came through pregnancy and delivery without problems will stay healthy. In the case of black women, providers may not understand their true biological risks or evaluate those risks in a big-picture way.

All of the due diligence that gets applied during the prenatal period needs to continue into the postpartum period," said Eleni Tsigas, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation. It's not just doctors and nurses who need to think differently. Like a lot of expectant mothers, Shalon had an elaborate plan for how she wanted to give birth, even including what she wanted her surgical team to talk about nothing political and who would announce the baby's gender her mother, not a doctor or nurse.

But like most pregnant women, she didn't have a postpartum care plan.

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The birth was "a beautiful time," Wanda said. Shalon did so well that she persuaded her doctor to let her and Soleil — French for "sun" — leave the hospital after two nights three or four nights are more typical. Then at home, "things got real," Pryor said. Shalon was very honest. She told me, 'Friend, this is hard.

C-sections have much higher complication rates than vaginal births.

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In Shalon's case, the trouble — a painful lump on her incision — started a week after she went home. The first doctor she saw, on Jan. Collins took a look and diagnosed a hematoma — blood trapped in layers of healing skin, something that happens in about 1 percent of C-sections. She drained the "fluctuant mass" as her notes described it , and "copious bloody non-purulent material" poured out from the 1-inch incision. Collins also arranged for a visiting nurse to come by the house every other day to change the dressing. What troubled the nurse most, though, was Shalon's blood pressure.

But Shalon didn't have other symptoms, such as headache or blurred vision. In that same record, the nurse wrote that Shalon had to change the dressing on her wound "sometimes several times a day due to large amounts of red drainage. This is adding to her stress as a new mom. Under current ACOG guidelines, those readings were high enough to warrant more aggressive action, Tsigas said, such as an immediate trip to the doctor for further evaluation, possibly medication, and more careful monitoring. That is especially true for someone with a history of hypertension and multiple other risks.

The doctor said that the communication about signs of stroke seemed insufficient and that it would be more "common practice" to assess her that day to find out what was wrong. Instead, Shalon was given an appointment for the next day, Jan. Joseph's, which handled her primary care. He wrote that Shalon was healing "appropriately" and thought her jumps in blood pressure were likely related to "poor pain control.

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At home over the next couple of days, Wanda noticed that one of Shalon's legs was larger than the other. When McDonald-Mosley looked over the voluminous medical records a few months later, what jumped out at her was the sense that Shalon's caregivers who declined to comment for this story didn't seem to think of her as a patient who needed a heightened level of attention, despite the complexity of her pregnancy. If you're gonna pick someone who's going to have a problem, it's gonna be her. She needs to be treated with caution. To act on them sooner and they were missed.

At multiple parts of the health care system. Shalon's other friends were growing uneasy, too. Pryor had her own pregnancy emergency — her son was born very prematurely, at 24 weeks — so she couldn't be in Atlanta. But she and Shalon talked often by phone. To hear her be concerned about her legs — that worried me. Are you going for your walks? Life coach Tran was so upset at Shalon's condition that she took her frustrations out on her friend. I talked to them.

I went to see them. Get off my back. Shalon took this selfie with her father, Samuel, and Soleil on the morning of Jan.

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Twelve hours later, she collapsed. On the morning of Tuesday, Jan. Toward noon, she and Wanda and the baby drove to the Emory Women's Center one more time. This time, Shalon saw a nurse practitioner. There's gotta be something wrong. The nurse's notes confirmed Shalon had swelling in both legs, with more swelling in the right one. She noted that Shalon had complained of "some mild headaches" but didn't have other worrisome symptoms, like blurred vision.

Don't worry about it, things are calming down,' " Wanda recalled the nurse telling them. Both tests came back negative. As Wanda remembers it, Shalon was insistent: I don't feel well, my legs are swollen, I'm gaining weight. I'm drinking a lot of water, but I'm retaining the water. A large, framed photograph of newborn Soleil and mother Shalon hangs in Soleil's nursery.

Shalon painted the nursery light blue shortly before Soleil was born. Shalon and Wanda stopped at the pharmacy, then decided to go out to dinner with the baby. While they ate, they talked about a trip Shalon had planned for the three of them to take in just a few weeks.

Ever since Sam III had died, Wanda and Shalon had made a point of traveling someplace special on painful anniversaries. To mark his 40th birthday and the eighth anniversary of his death, Shalon had gotten the idea of going to Dubai. It's supposed to be beautiful. Now Wanda was worried — would she be feeling well enough to make such a big trip with an infant? Shalon wasn't willing to give up hope just yet. Wanda recalls her saying, "I'll be fine, I'll be fine.

They got home and sat in Shalon's bedroom for a while, laughing and playing with the baby. An hour later, Wanda heard a terrifying gasping noise. The news spread quickly among her colleagues at the CDC. William Callaghan, chief of the maternal and infant health branch, recalled in March that his boss, who had visited Shalon at the hospital, called to let him know. This was not about data, this was not about whether it was going up or it was going down.

It was about this tragic event that happened to this woman, her family. Northside decided against an autopsy, telling Wanda and Samuel that there was nothing unusual about Shalon's death, they recalled. The hospital declined to comment. The report came back three months later. Noting that Shalon's heart showed signs of damage consistent with hypertension, it attributed her death to complications of high blood pressure.

Soleil plays with her nanny. Wanda moved into Shalon's tidy town house to care for Soleil. Even though Shalon's villagers fulfilled their pledges at the memorial service, coming by often to give Wanda a break, the first months were borderline unbearable — the baby was colicky, prone to gastric problems that kept both of them up all night.

Wanda's grief was endless, bottomless, but she couldn't let it interfere with her duties to Soleil. Eventually the colic went away and Soleil thrived. In June, Wanda and her 5-month-old granddaughter drove to Chattanooga, Tenn. Public Health Service scientists. She handed the baby to one of Shalon's CDC colleagues and took the small stage. It's a struggle to become the person you want to be. It's harder than you want. It takes longer than you want.

And it takes more out of you than you expected it should. Shalon personified excellence, Wanda said. But I do know that she wanted to be the woman she was. Wanda holds Soleil's hands as she learns to walk. She put Soleil on her lap and said, "I'm gonna read you some letters about your mom. But as she began reading the letters, she was sobbing. And about a minute later she took my glasses off with her hands and put them down and then laid her head right on my chest and started patting me. Which made me cry all the more.

As Soleil got older, Wanda looked forward to doing the kinds of things with her that Shalon had looked forward to: Now 10 months old, Soleil has her mother's eyes, energy and headstrong yet sweet disposition, coming into Wanda's bed every night and waking her early to play. Time to get up! A week or so after the memorial service, Wanda came across a letter that Shalon had written to her two years earlier, around the sixth anniversary of Sam III's death.

Shalon had left it among the other important items on her computer, trusting that if something ever happened to her, Wanda would find it.