Only 18 weeks pregnant, Tiffany Griffin was rushed to the hospital and given the news no expecting mother wants to hear. Her baby, her first, was not going to make it.
Griffin and her partner, Chad Greaves, knew the baby she was carrying had been diagnosed with several genetic disorders that elevated the risk of miscarriage and meant the child might not live long if she made it to term.
But that didn’t lessen the pain when they lost the baby, whom they’d named Bailey.
In a haze after her post-miscarriage procedure, Griffin scribbled her name on some forms releasing the remains to a funeral home in Upper Darby, near the couple’s home.
Griffin and Greaves hadn’t been able to hold the baby before the remains were whisked away. They at least wanted to say goodbye properly.
But a lawsuit filed Thursday in Montgomery County alleges that instead, the grieving couple were subjected to even more heartache.
Bryn Mawr Hospital mistakenly gave Donohue Funeral Home Griffin’s placenta, and the funeral home didn’t check the package’s contents before proceeding with cremation. Seventeen days later, the remains were found in the hospital, having been misplaced like “a set of keys or item of clothing,” the lawsuit alleges.
“They just treated our daughter like she was an animal or something,” Griffin, 25, said. “There’s no way a body should sit in a hospital that long and nobody notices it.”
Griffin and Greaves, 31, are being represented by attorney Amber L. Falkenbach of Falkenbach Law in Media.
In a statement, Main Line Health acknowledged the mistake.
“We were deeply upset to learn of this mistake, which added to the grief Ms. Griffin and Mr. Greaves were already experiencing. We shared with the couple our sincerest apologies, and once again extend our sympathies for their loss and the pain they experienced thereafter,” said Bridget Therriault, a spokesperson for Main Line Health.
Therriault said the health system “conducted an extensive review and assessment of how this error happened, and we have implemented corrective steps to ensure it does not recur,” but did not elaborate on the conclusions of the review or what changes were made.
“We feel for the family involved and have offered our assistance throughout this entire process. We have been committed to serving our community with services for grieving families for over 120 years and take great pride in doing so. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” the funeral home said in a statement given by its attorney, Samuel Cortes of Fox Rothschild in Exton.
Cremation and burial are becoming more common after miscarriage as families try to cope with their loss.
“A lot of people have these preconceived notions, because a baby was lost before a certain week of gestation, that it’s less of a loss physically and emotionally,” said Kristen Samuelson, who started a grief support organization, Three Little Birds, in New Jersey after her miscarriage.
“There is no guidebook to this,” she said. “Everyone is approaching this tragic and horrific and unique situation with their own spiritual needs.”
Griffin and Greaves had wanted to scatter the ashes along a river in New York, where Greaves has family.
But days before their planned trip, the couple received a call from Bryn Mawr Hospital informing them there had been a “mix-up with paperwork,” according to the lawsuit.
They were eventually able to see the remains and had them sent to another funeral home for cremation.
The couple wanted to know where the body had been, who found it, how the error happened. They also worried about how they would know the remains the hospital now said were the baby’s were in fact hers.
The hospital was unable to provide any answers, the lawsuit alleges.
“I haven’t held any big, crazy jobs like that, but I’ve been a McDonald’s manager, and I know if anything goes wrong, you’re responsible for it … and no one wanted to own up to their mistake,” Greaves said. “That’s all we really wanted, was an explanation. We don’t know, really, what even happened.”
In the months that followed, Griffin and Greaves struggled to process their grief.
Griffin consulted a therapist and was briefly admitted to a crisis center after experiencing a mental breakdown. She eventually returned to her job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office but was let go shortly after “due to her mental state,” according to the lawsuit.
Greaves was unable to sleep as he tried to work through his emotions while supporting his partner.
“We were just staying up all night, trying to process what happened,” Greaves said.
His relationships with other family members, whose growing families amplified the gap in his own, were strained, he said.
Griffin and Greaves are seeking damages above $50,000.
Ten months later, the couple continue to grieve while preparing for a boy they’ve already named Caleb, who is due in September.
“This one is emotional. We have another child on the way and we still don’t have any closure from the child we had before. She’s still on our minds as much as we think about this one,” Griffin said.