Ahmad Saleem and Ayesha Riaz welcomed their first-born son, Eesa, into the world on Feb. 7, 2018.
Three days later, 24-year-old Riaz was dead after contracting a hospital-acquired strain of Group A streptococcus at Markham Stouffville Hospital, according to her family.
Now 26-year-old Saleem, who just became a widower as well as a new father, is looking for answers.
“I am in talks to retain counsel,” Saleem said in an interview to Yahoo Canada News. “I’m just selecting the best possible representation for my wife and for the situation.”
To help support the cost of the legal action as well as pursue women’s empowerment projects in Riaz’s honour, Saleem and family have set up a GoFundMe page which is currently at $25,929 of its $40,000 goal.
“It’s been extremely overwhelming and it’s given me peace in a sense that people are understanding and becoming more aware,” said Saleem. “From their contribution its given me so much hope that I can not only fight for my wife but I can fight for others who at any given point were in a similar situation.”
Since Saleem and Riaz’s story has become public, people have started reaching out to Saleem with their own stories about Markham Stouffville Hospital.
“Quite a few women – and men – have reached out to talk about their experiences with losing loved ones at the same particular hospital,” said Saleem. “I’ve been really shocked. There’s a disturbing pattern that when I start to put it on paper and start to build a timeline – it’s a very disturbing pattern that really needs to be looked into in regards to Markham Stouffville Hospital.”
These new insights have been painful for the recent widow to process.
“It hurts me to my core,” said Saleem. “It really bothers me. It disturbs every aspect of my being in my anatomy because had I known this was the case I would have never taken my wife there.
“You put faith and trust into a system that’s there,” he explained. “In Canada we pride ourselves on such good health care but when you experience something as tragic as I’ve experienced you realize they’re so inadequately staffed, there’s lack of resources and cleanliness and even negligence in regard to the level of care they provide their patients.”
Yahoo Canada News reached out to Markham Stouffville Hospital and asked if they faced any staffing or funding issues both in regards to the incident with Saleem and Riaz and in general.
“No, we do not have issues in those areas,” wrote Lisa Joyce, vice president of communications and public affairs at the hospital, in an email statement.
“We had three confirmed cases of Group A Strep infection in February on our Childbirth Unit. The other two patients are recovering well and are no longer in hospital. We do not have any confirmed cases currently on our Childbirth Unit,” wrote Joyce.
As for what Riaz wants to see happen, his message is clear:
“I want major policy changes,” he said. “It’s more than just statistics. These are individual people and individual families that have been torn apart and nobody’s doing anything about it. Because they have good legal representation, people don’t go against them. I want to be that voice for everyone, including my wife, where I can hopefully draw some change.”