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A Bronx man was galvanized by the death of his long-time partner, who died in childbirth, turning his grief into advocacy.

Bruce McIntrye loss the love of his life, Amber Rose Isaac, a year ago this week.

She died April 20, 2020, after giving birth to their son, Elias. She was just 26 years old.

The case drew national attention to the racial divide in maternal health care. PIX11 spoke with him on the one-year anniversary of Amber’s death.

“He’s such a happy baby and it just hurts me knowing this happened to him and how much happier he would be with his mother,” said McIntyre.  “Seeing them bond would’ve been such a beautiful thing.”

Birthing while Black: Dad speaks out about what happened to baby’s mother during labor

Isaac was Black and Puerto Rican. With hospitals overwhelmed due to the pandemic, she could only see her doctor through virtual visits. McIntyre said Isaac voiced her concerns, but no one was listening.

“Her platelet levels were dropping. But we weren’t aware of that,” he said.

Isaac died after complications from her cesarean section surgery at an area hospital.

Elias Isaac McIntyre turned one year old this week. He is a happy and healthy little boy. While his dad is celebrating like any proud father, it’s also a bittersweet day for this family.

“Yesterday was a bit hard of course,” said McIntrye. “We wish Amber was here with us to celebrate because we know she would just have so many plans and ideas for the birthday, it definitely was a special moment that we could’ve shared with her.”

NJ, White House shine light on maternal health disparities

Amber Rose Isaac’s death sparked outrage and shed light the systemic racism in maternal health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers.

Locally the rate is even higher – Black moms are eight to 12 times more likely to die from childbirth-related issues.

The likely cause – racial bias and discrimination: an overall sentiment that Black women are not listened to when they speak up about pain or potential complications and ask to be check out by health care professionals. 

McIntyre is now turning his loss into advocacy and awareness.

“I want [our son] to know how divine his mother was how loving and caring she was,” said McIntrye. “I want him to know that his mother is special enough to change the world.”

McIntyrle has spent the past year raising Elias as a single parent and has started the Save a Rose Foundation, named after Amber.

“I started advocating for Amber immediately after her death,” said McIntyre. “At first, the foundation was targeting to dismantle the systemic falls within the health care system and to try to overturn and redirect the course of birthing equity.”

But it has grown into so much more. McIntyre has spoken out about the racial disparities in health care, and lobbied state lawmakers to pass legislation to improve access to health care, covering midwifery and doula services.

Movement underway to improve access to maternity care in US

He’s also working on bringing the first ever birthing center to the Bronx, one that is a freestanding midwifery-led center, not run by physicians. McIntyre has now made it his life’s mission to make sure what happened to his family doesn’t happen to another’s.

“Some people feel like this isn’t their issue but they don’t realize this is going to affect them in the future whenever they do decide to have a family,” said McIntyre. “We’ve been working and pushing very hard for this and seeing this come to reality for Amber is going to be a beautiful thing.”

While the focus is on maternal health, McIntyre says they’re working towards overall well-being in Black and Brown communities.

The CDC found 60% of pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented with access to stable housing, transportation and overall better health care.

McIntyre finds solace in his young son — a picture of health and reflection of his mother.

“I see it in his smile, I see it in his eyes, sometimes it feels like she’s looking at me, sometimes I just sit there and I look at him and I’ll choke up because of how much he reminds me of his mother.”