Alana Ross has been waiting years to start a family. She had already endured two miscarriages when she became pregnant for the third time.
“I just wanted to enjoy showing them the world and being there when they experience the world for the first time,” Ross said. “I want to see it through their eyes. So, I was really, really excited to start this next part of my life.”
Her partner, Dan McCarthy, couldn’t wait to take their daughter to a baseball game at Fenway Park.
“I’ve been a Red Sox fan my whole life. And we joked about doing stuff like that,” he said.
Ross experienced a complication 18 weeks into her pregnancy. The doctors performed a painful, invasive procedure to continue the pregnancy for another two weeks. Everleigh was born premature on July 25, 2020, weighing just two pounds and five ounces.
She lived for 12 days in Bringham and Women’s NICU before passing away.
Ross and McCarthy were crushed.
“They let me hold her while she died, while I was holding her. She was baptized. And then when she was gone, they took her from us, but kept her in the room and dressed her in a white gown and let us say goodbye one more time as we walked out of the room. That was the last time we saw her,” Ross said.
The hospital told them Everleigh’s remains would be kept safe in the morgue while they made funeral plans.
They chose to bury her in the same cemetery where Ross’s grandmother was laid to rest. The couple went to the morgue to pick up Everleigh’s body four days after she died, but no one could find her remains.
“I thought it was some technical error. Surely, she’s just somewhere else in the hospital or at the worst, she’s at another funeral home by accident, and they would just go and retrieve her,” Ross said.
When they didn’t get the answers they were looking for, they called the police, who started an investigation.
The remains still haven’t been found, but the family believes they know what happened to Everleigh.
According to the couple’s lawsuit and police report, three employees brought Everleigh’s body, swaddled in hospital linens, to the hospital’s morgue. Inside the morgue cooler, another hospital employee was in the way of the racks meant to hold the bodies of children. That’s where Everleigh’s remains should have gone.
The employee inside the cooler then turned to the others and said, “You can put it anywhere,” so they left Everleigh’s remains on the racks meant for adults, according to the suit.
Police believe another staffer came in the next day and threw Everleigh’s remains away, believing them to be soiled linens, not realizing there was a body inside.
Ross said the news was almost too much to bear.
“Being thrown away like trash when so many people loved her. It just rips my heart out of my chest because so many people were so happy that she was part of the family,” Ross said. “It was just so heartbreaking. We would never get to bury her and them. We wouldn’t even get to know where she ended up.”
Police retraced the steps of the worker they believe threw away Everleigh’s remains. A laundry service picks up the hospital’s soiled linens three times a week. If human waste is inside, the facility deposits it into a compactor and the contents are disposed of at a local waste transfer site.
The authorities say Everleigh’s remains were likely transferred from the linen service to the waste transfer station on August 10, 2020. The waste would then go to either a landfill in New Hampshire, an incinerator in Haverhill, or a landfill in South Carolina.
The police eventually discovered hospital waste at the transfer site, giving them hope that Everleigh’s remains were still intact. They then spent a total of 16 hours over two days searching through “soiled linens, towels, rags and hazardous waste such as blood and feces”, according to the police report.
“I would like to thank them. They did exactly what I would have done for hours relentlessly. And I am eternally grateful for them trying,” Ross said.
McCarthy added that the police were “the only ones that have really provided any answers.”
The couple says they still haven’t received an official explanation from the hospital as to what happened to Everleigh’s remains.
The hospital’s internal investigation into the matter contradicts with the police report.
According to the hospital, “At no point does anyone leave the morgue cooler with any linens that could contain ‘Baby Ross.'”
A morgue worker “was adamant to detectives that he did not observe, nor remove any soiled linens when he entered the morgue.” But two days later, he admitted to hospital security that he did in fact dispose of the linen that was later believed to contain the newborn’s remains.
The police added in their report that the hospital gave them incomplete information.
“It should also be noted that detectives were not provided the complete video from the time ‘Baby Ross’ arrived at the morgue cooler to the time it was observed that ‘Baby Ross’ was known to be missing,” the report says.
The hospital responded to the lawsuit in a written statement.
“We continue to express our deepest sympathies and most sincere apologies to the Ross and McCarthy family for their loss and the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding it,” said Dr. Sunil Eappen, chief medical officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“As with any instance in which there is a concern raised related to our standard of care or practice, we readily and transparently shared the details with the patient’s family. We always evaluate both system and human factors that contribute to errors or potential issues raised by patients, family members or staff and take action. Due to pending litigation, we are unable to comment specifically on this case.”
But Ross and McCarthy just want to know what happened to their daughter.
“I want to know what happened. I want them to be held accountable. I just don’t want anybody else to have to go through this pain,” Ross said.
“Every night I go to bed and I don’t know where she is. And that’s a terrible feeling. I know I have to live with that for the rest of my life,” McCarthy said.