When UPMC and Highmark Work Together: Saving the Life of a Newborn Baby


I was so saddened to learn that a neighbor of mine from the Northside was killed in a terrible car accident Wednesday evening. Her name was Jodie Guthrie and while I did not know her, I am a regular customer at the Rite-Aid where she was killed. She lived near my neighborhood.

Jodie was pregnant, 8 and 1/2 months pregnant in fact. She was outside of the Rite-Aid, crouched against the wall of the building on the sidewalk. Her fiance, George Weatherwalk, speculated that she was relieving pressure on her back by taking a rest after shopping in the store.

What happened next is horrible. A driver of a Dodge Caravan accelerated as he pulled into the parking space and crushed Jodi against the wall of the building for a solid minute. The driver happened to be 88 years old and there is speculation that he hit the gas rather than the brake. That situation warrants an entirely different post.

Jodie was rushed to nearby Allegheny General Hospital by the responding paramedics. Reports indicate that the paramedics and the emergency room surgeons were able to perform an emergency c-section on Jodie even though she had died. The baby, Trace Joseph, was then whisked away to UPMC Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville. He is in critical care after being deprived of oxygen before his delivery.

Trace Joseph Guthrie Weatherwalk has his best chance at life thanks to the coordinated response of the medical teams of Allegheny Health Network and UPMC. I don’t know the specifics – who actually performed the cesarean, whether Trace was lifeflighted to Childrens or driven by ambulance, etc. But I do know this – when a child’s life was at stake, the medical personnel of two different hospital systems figured it out.

Allegheny Health Network/Highmark and UPMC have been at war for years in Pittsburgh and nearby regions. It boils down to UPMC which owns hospitals and an insurance company being angry when insurer Highmark purchases the Allegheny Health Network hospital system. They are petulant spoiled executives whose mission to provide healthcare is clearly secondary to a multiple-year pissing contest to assert their might in the healthcare market.

The most recent news is a letter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ordering them to comply with the consent decree in place when it comes to their Medicare insurance programs. Read the article if you like to get a small glimpse into how petty and mean-spirited these two corporate giants are over every single possible opportunity to drive a dagger into the other.

Contrast that with actual medical personnel who saved the life of Jodie Guthrie’s newborn son.  That’s how this is supposed to work. If medical personnel from two different hospital systems in two different parts of town can save a baby born prematurely after his mother died from traumatic injuries – is it truly impossible that business executives can’t? And what will happen as those relationships shrivel from the increasingly hostile corporate owners of both systems?

I guess we have our answer.

While I applaud the discussion around when a senior citizen should stop driving, I can’t help but notice that this is often also tied to healthcare – including an established relationship with a primary care doctor who can make a determination or to the simple ability to access healthcare without a car. The ongoing staff layoffs and shuttering of community healthcare by both corporate entities seems more tied to paying for a public relations battle than ensuring that 88-year-old men or 30-year-old pregnant women have what they need to flourish and thrive in our society.

I also have ZERO FAITH that the hateful, ugly tension between Highmark and UPMC will NOT one day erode the medical professionalism that saved the life of Trace Joseph. Eventually, it will trickle down. Eventually, this story will have a different outcome when the responding emergency room doesn’t have the resources to care for a critically ill premature baby. Eventually, the protocols for coordinated care will give way to the dictates of those who really control our healthcare – executives. Just watch the evening news which is basically a giant commercial for the health care companies spewing fear, hate and misinformation into our lives.

In the meantime, Trace Joseph has a chance to live the life his mother dreamed for him.

Family have established a GoFundMe drive for Trace Joseph.


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