‘Ultimate Sacrifice of a Mother’s Love!
I was lucky to have a smooth pregnancy and faithfully attended all prenatal clinics. I was healthy and energetic even as my day of delivery neared. I ate healthy and read a horde of magazines and books on antenatal care to ensure I did the right things.
I counted days to my expected day of delivery, but the events of August 30, 2011, a week to my delivery day changed my life forever. How can I ever forget this day? I walked to Jamaa Mission Hospital for my normal antenatal visit at around 7.30am en route to work. I was not in any pain or discomfort. This was a normal check-up in preparation for delivery date.
As I lay on the examination table, one ‘Dr Wangwe’ exclaimed, “Aah your birth canal has opened! I see no need of you carrying this pregnancy anymore. I will send you to the maternity ward, they will induce labour and you will have your baby today.” “What? I don’t even have my baby clothes and I still have to report to work! “I retorted. “Tell your husband to bring the clothes, this baby must come today,” he replied conclusively.
This was my first pregnancy. I had no idea what had just happened. I walked to the wards still not in terms with the sudden change of events, but there seemed to be nothing I could do. I was shown a bed and as soon as I lay on it, a nurse induced my labour. “Please press the bell by your bedside if you need anything,” he said and left. Two nurses checked in for night duty and that is where my nightmare began.
I laboured the entire night; I was helpless, desperate and at one point vomited on my bed. This earned me a thorough tongue-lashing and they warned me not to ring the bell again until I saw blood or water! I will never forget their faces. The doctor came to see me at 8am the following day and when I told him my pain had disappeared, he burst my water and lined a drip on both of my hands.
Shortly after, contraction pains intensified. At 9am, there were signs of baby coming, the nurse injected more medicine into the drip to increase the contraction. “That pain is not enough to push the baby,” she said and left. She came back again at 1pm and injected more medicine into the drip. I felt like my skin was being peeled off. At 5pm, my husband came and could not take it anymore, I was still in so much pain and my birth canal had not opened an inch.
We demanded for a Cesarian Section, but there was no doctor available to take me to theatre. They could not refer us to another hospital either because we needed a doctor’s referral note, yet there was no doctor on sight. After an hour of pushing, finally the ‘doctor’ came at 6pm. I asked him to take me to theatre but he refused. “Ruth, you are going to push this baby whether in labour or not.”
He called one of the male nurses who pressed my womb with his elbow while he forced me to push the baby. Barely 15 minutes after, the baby came out. “My baby has not cried… My baby has not cried,” I remember crying. The doctor pulled the baby up and said, “Have you seen what you have done to the baby?” This is when I looked and saw the sex of my baby. It was a boy, ‘Thank God’ I said to myself.
But wait a minute… my baby’s head was severely pressed on the sides. “Ruth look at what you have done to the baby,” the doctor kept repeating. “But you forced me to push the baby while my birth canal had not fully opened,” I cried. I saw the doctor injecting my poor baby with some medicine perhaps to trigger some pain so he could cry, but nothing happened. He was then put on oxygen to help him breath and placed him in an incubator.
I only smiled when my husband came to the ward and told me our baby was the biggest, light skinned and the most handsome in the nursery, but he was in the incubator shivering. He weighed 3.3 kilogrammes. When I was finally able to see my son, he had not stopped shivering, blood oozed from his mouth and he laid on soiled beddings in the incubator. On the second day after delivery, his condition had not improved and we asked for a paediatrician to tell us why he was that way, but there was no in-house paediatrician.
Hours later, a man called Dr Kyalo from Metropolitan Hospital arrived — his name also appears in the birth notification slip — and assured us that the baby was stressed due to prolonged labour and he was just tired and in no time, he would come along. We believed him. But then my hopes were dashed again when on the third day another nurse disclosed that our son was in a bad state and that his condition would not improve in the incubator.
She advised we take him to a hospital with an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We called hospitals with an ICU in vain until midnight when one nurse told us that she had secured a place for him at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and that we needed to hurry. But then, we could not leave the hospital. We had to clear the hospital bill first, but only when the cashier arrived the following morning!
We were boiling with anger, I was crying so hard in fear of losing my son. My husband and his brother almost turned physical before the nurse agreed to carry our son to the ambulance. We finally arrived at KNH but again they were not expecting us as no one had called to book us in. The ICU was full and we only got a bed at 3pm the following day. After two hours in the ICU, a jar of meconium and amniotic fluids was removed from my baby’s lungs and his condition was critical.
The doctor said that the damage could have been minimised if Jamaa Hospital had his nose and mouth suctioned to remove mucous and fluids from his lungs immediately after he was born and not three days later. He insisted he needed a medical report from Jamaa. At Jamaa, my husband would only be given the report in exchange for payment of the hospital bill, which had sky rocketed to Sh60,000 and only revised to Sh32,500 after he protested.
He paid the bill but to his shock, they refused to give him the medical report. The matron said that the person they had told us was a doctor was only a nurse dressed in a doctor’s coat and that she could not give us a report. My baby stayed in the ICU for a month, and when he finally opened his eyes, he was transferred to nursery still under close supervision for another month.
When we asked the doctor why our child could not cry like the rest, he broke the bad news, “Due to prolonged labour and administration of too much Pitocin (the drug for inducing labour), your son inhaled meconium and amniotic fluids and suffered a birth asphyxia. Your son suffered severe brain damage, which means he will require support 24/7 for the rest of his life. Your son is a special child now.” I could not believe it, I went into denial.
My dreams had been crushed, my son’s future had been stolen, my desire of having a normal child shattered. I had lost my son to severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy and asthma. Going home with a special child after two months in hospital was not easy. The neighbours talked ill of us. I was ashamed to go out and I felt I didn’t belong to this world. I took my son for therapy thrice a week for 10 months at Sh500 per session.
It became too expensive for us because he also needed occupational therapy, which cost Sh500. That was Sh5,000 a week and since we could not afford it we couldn’t take him anymore. My son feeds from a tube stuck on his chin. He is blind, deaf and dump and has never been able to sit at the age of two years eight moths. He is also not able to swallow foods. We were never prepared for this; the painful seizures, difficulty in breathing, sleepless nights, therapies, recurring ailments due his low immunity, which mean rushing him to hospital two to three times a week.
He is in pain every second of his life. He can’t live without anticonvulsants and antibiotics since his chest is still very wet. He has pneumonia that keeps on recurring due to his wet chest, he coughs and sneezes every minute. We have been emotionally and financially drained. I have gone to every school I know including Dagoretti Special School to secure him a space with no luck. He needs to be somewhere he can get therapy every day.
I have never slept since my son was born, because he needs to feed every two hours. If he is not feeding, he is either in convulsing or coughing. Morning comes when we are still seated and I still have to report to work. He gets comfortable when seated. The biggest challenge has been house girls who leave him alone and disappear while am at work. I look at Neville everyday and feel so sad to think how different his life could have been if we had been cared for properly.
Today we are here two years eight months down the line because of God’s grace and prayers of people have prayed for us every time we shared Neville’s story