Local dentist, 34, dies in childbirth

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:41 PM

Curtis, 34, a dentist with Drs. Creason, Weber and Curtis on Jackson Street in Grand Haven, died shortly before 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus in Grand Rapids.

“My daughter Katherine was born yesterday and is healthy and happy,” Curtis' husband, Scott, wrote on Facebook Sunday afternoon. “My beautiful wife, however, suffered a severe complication and passed away this morning.”

Scott's mother, Jane Curtis of Spring Lake Township, said Monday afternoon that her daughter-in-law lost consciousness when amniotic fluid entered her bloodstream during labor.

The local dentist had been laughing and joking about 10 minutes prior to announcing she wasn't feeling well, according to Jane.

Jane said the attending doctor ordered an emergency C-section to deliver the baby.

“It's a rare condition,” Jane said. “The body completely breaks down immediately. Her OB/GYN was able to save Baby Kate. Most of the time, in cases like this, the mother passes away and the baby does as well. We are just blessed. They called Kate a miracle baby.”

Curtis was unconscious after the delivery, but they placed Baby Kate next to her before transporting Curtis to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, according to Jane.

“Transferring her to Spectrum was kind of a formality,” Jane said. “Basically she was gone immediately. Before they transported her, they were able to take Baby Kate and put her on Liz's stomach so they were flesh-to-flesh.”

Jane said Baby Kate was released from the hospital Monday afternoon.

“We just brought Baby Kate home and she met her brother, Adam,” Jane said of her 3-year-old grandson. “They're doing just fine. Baby Kate is thriving. She's eating well.”

Jane said Scott, Adam and Kate will move in with her and her husband, Charles Hettenbach, and she will help care for the children.

“We're doing fine, but we miss Liz so much,” Jane said. “It really was shocking. We can hear her laughter, though. It rings in our head. We're just going to take it one step at a time.”

Dr. Kennard Creason said he will miss Curtis' trademark laugh resounding in the train depot dental office where Curtis had practiced for four years.

Creason said Curtis, a 1997 Grand Haven High School graduate, was scheduled to become a partner at the end of the year.

“We were all excited about that,” Creason said. “I won't be hearing that laugh next door to me anymore. I'm really going to miss that.”

Creason said he looked at Curtis' desk Monday morning and thought back to when he last saw her Thursday evening.

“She was going to have her baby. We had just approved the contract for the partnership,” Creason said. “This certainly changes everybody's plans. We're really going to miss her.”

Dental practice office manager Claudia Howe said there is a gaping hole in the community.

Curtis was secretary of the Grand Haven Rotary Club; the Muskegon Dental Society treasurer; and a member of the local 100 (or more) Women Who Care, Chamber of Commerce and the American Dental Association.

“It's almost as if this is surreal, like someone is going to call us and tell us this is all a mistake,” Howe said. “She was just an incredible woman. She was an extreme asset to our office and she was involved in so much in the community. We're all devastated.”

Howe described Curtis as vibrant and full of life. Her sense of humor and laughter was contagious. She wouldn't hesitate to work on a weekend if there was a patient in need.

“She always thought of others,” Howe said. “I last saw her on Friday. She was looking forward to having the baby and she was in good spirits. It just didn't turn out like we all had anticipated. We're all shaken up about it.”

Visitation is scheduled from 5-8 p.m. Friday at VanZantwick Bartels Kammeraad Funeral Home in Grand Haven.

Services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church in Grand Haven.

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