Local dentist, 34, dies in childbirth

Local dentist Dr. Elizabeth Curtis was looking forward to delivering a new baby over the weekend and celebrating Christmas with her family. Curtis gave birth to Katherine Elizabeth Curtis at 2:23 p.m. Saturday at North Ottawa Community Hospital. The 7-pound, 6-ounce baby girl will never get to know her mother.
Marie Havenga
Dec 23, 2013


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.




It doesn't get to be more sad than that, 2013 is officially shot. My heart and prayers to Elizabeth's family, God's speed.


This is such a profoundly sad time. My heart is with the Curtis family, and all those involved in her life and care.


I'm so sorry of the sadness this story brings, lets cast away all doubt an believe in the ever after paid for by our Lord Jesus, were all coming and going at one age or another at sometime or another . . .


My sincere condolences to the family. Heaven has earned its newest Angel, and the Earth Angel baton has been passed on to her blessing of a daughter. May God be with you all.


Her family and friends are in my thoughts this holiday season. Never met her, or went to that dentist office, but this story actually hit pretty hard; makes us realize that no matter how bad we think our own hardships are, there are those with worse. I sincerely hope her family and friends are able to pull through this and like I said, they are in my thoughts.


My heart goes out to the family - especially to the husband and children. These tragedies really bring home the fact that we should treasure every moment we have with those we love.

deuce liti

While this is terribly sad, I'd like to know if this is a fluke or if it was preventable.

We had our baby at Spectrum at the urge of our obgyn because he said NOCH is ill-equipped for emergency C-sections and has no NICU. Of course, we had an emergency C-section and needed the NICU.

I know plenty of people who had natural births and planned C-sections at NOCH with nothing wrong.

However, reading this story and knowing of others scares me about wanting to have our next child close to home.

Again, my condolences to the family. So sad!


Look up Amniotic fluid embolism - Wiki. It is a rare, unpreventable event that is most often fatal almost immediately. There is very little to nothing that can be done prior to, or during, the crisis.

This is truly a tragedy, and my heart goes out to Dr. Curtis's family, friends, and colleagues.


Agreed, unpreventable, unpredictable, and untreatable. I am an Ob doctor and sounds like this doctor and hospital did a great job given the circumstances. Delivering in small hospitals is safe in most situations, but if you are going to deliver early or have a high risk pregnancy Spectrum could be a better option. But for routine, low risk full term I think small hospitals are great, the care is much more personalized and u are close to family. I also lost a patient to this, it is a true Tragedy. My heart not only goes out to Dr. Curtis's family and friends but also to the Grand Haven staff and Doctor who cared for her, because I know if they feel like I did and how my staff felt, they too are in utter devastation.

deuce liti

Thanks for the info. My fears are alleviated... At least about this.


100% unpreventable. No diagnostic tests can be done prior to determine the risks or chances of this occurring. It just is. The physician acted in such a way that beautiful baby Kate really is a miracle, as most times that is not the case.
North Ottawa's birthing unit and obstetric providers are an amazing group of talented and passionate people who have taken the loss of Dr. Curtis very hard, and very heartfelt.
In preventable situations and pregnancies that are considered high-risk, patients are referred to Spectrum where their care is co-managed.

Tri-cities realist

So sad. I will be saying an extra prayer tonight for the Curtis family. I would hope many others will do the same.


We were blessed to meet Dr. Curtis about a 1 1/2 years ago when she administered braces for our daughter. I agree with those who work with her about her laugh. :) It was contagious and so was her smile. To her husband, two children, and family, we are so sorry to hear of this tragedy. We will continue praying for all of you. Dr. Curtis certainly left a positive mark on the Grand Haven community. She will be greatly missed.


Deeply saddened. I want to offer my help to you. I am a young, 55 year old, Christian, caucasian woman. Educated, professionally experienced in teaching, and as a nanny. I have two grown children, two grandchildren, both live further away, busy in their lives. Please contact me. In Christ, AvaEvon Tollenaar ladylakemi@gmail.com


Deeply saddened. I want to offer my help to you. I am a young, 55 year old, Christian, caucasian woman. Educated, professionally experienced in teaching, and as a nanny. I have two grown children, two grandchildren, both live further away, busy in their lives. Please contact me. In Christ, AvaEvon Tollenaar ladylakemi@gmail.com


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