Thirty-one-year-old Abena Alphonso is still trying to come to grips with the fact that she lost her first and only child, a mere five days after his birth.
Although he entered the world prematurely on January 3, last, Alphonso recounted that her son, from all indications, was a fighter and could have still been alive today had the nurses at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation paid closer attention.
Alphonso, a resident of 640 West Ruimveldt, Georgetown, recounted that even as she anticipated the arrival of her newborn baby, medical staffers at the health facility appeared to have been scarce.
“When I gave birth no doctor or nurse was around me. I had to call for the doctor because I was told he was resting.” She explained that when it appeared that her time had come for delivery she was rushed to the operating theatre, as it was believed that she needed a Caesarean Section.
However, upon closer examination the doctor on duty ruled out the need for a surgical operation and opted to leave the room but not before advising Alphonso to call out to him when she felt the baby coming out. “He told me I must call for doctor…No nurse was there. So I was all alone.”
And indeed the baby would come out before her screams could alert the doctor that the baby was out. The woman said that when the doctor came in she informed him that the baby had even cried.
The doctor aided by other medical officials rushed away with the baby.
A nurse was subsequently sent to remove the afterbirth and had some difficulties doing so, a situation that led to it bursting, Alphonso recalled.
The woman said that she was immediately taken to the theatre where the process was completed. Alphonso related that anaesthesia used to facilitate the process left her drowsy and unaware of her surroundings for about three hours.
After regaining her sense of mind the woman said that she was informed that she had given birth to a boy and that he was in the nursery.
She would not see the baby until the following day. “It was way in the afternoon I got to see my baby. Can you imagine I didn’t even know at first if I had a boy or a girl until then.”
But as if her experience had not been daunting enough, Alphonso disclosed that she had first-hand exposure to the uncaring and negligible behaviour of some members of staff at the public health facility. And it all began three days before her baby died.
The woman said that since her son had to remain hospitalised she too had to stay at the hospital in the post-natal ward, as she was required to feed the baby every three hours. According to her she had to extract milk from her breast, which was fed to the baby using a tube, which was inserted through his nostrils.
The woman said that she remembers vividly approaching the baby cribs and observed a bag of saline positioned close by. Closer examination revealed that the bag was damaged thus allowing saline to drip unto her baby’s bed close to his head. That saline, she added, was not attached to her baby but rather a baby nearby.
“I called the nurse and showed her what was happening…And all she had to say was ‘All you had to do was roll it away. Is not no big problem’. So I just move it and clean out my baby’s crib as she refused to come.”
Alphonso’s second encounter with an uncaring staff entailed her arriving at her baby’s crib the following day and discovered blood smeared in the crib.
“When I looked at his hand it was bleeding. He was hooked up to saline but the needle was out of his hand and his hand was swollen. I called the nurse and told her. She came but she said that she could do nothing until the doctor arrived.”
The nurse proceeded to clean the baby even as Alphonso questioned the logistics behind leaving a premature baby without the much needed saline. However, nothing could prepare Alphonso for her January 8 experience.
Even as she approached the crib she could hear her baby crying. “Maybe he is hungry,” was Alphonso’s first taught. But even after feeding the baby his cries did not cease, the woman recalled.
This aroused her concerns. She said she observed, too, that the baby was not breathing properly and that his feet and arms appeared bluish. Thinking that he was not comfortable Alphonso said that she decided to turn her baby on his side to burp him, a move which revealed a syringe sticking out of his back.
“I called the nurse and I told her and she said she just forget to move the syringe.” Additionally, Alphonso said she alerted the nurse to the fact that her baby was groaning and his breathing was not normal.
Initially, the nurse refused to heed her disclosures only doing so when Alphonso began to beg her to tend to the child. “I say nurse please come now, now. Something is wrong because he just groaning and his feet are getting stiff. I held unto to her and screamed then she rolled an oxygen can and came.”
Being a Home-based Care nurse, Alphonso said that she recognised her son’s breathing pattern as similar to the “death blow.” The woman said that the nurse asked her to sit and promised to tend to the child. Taking some comfort in the fact that the nurse was doing her job Alphono said she relaxed for a while but was flung into instant despair when she saw the baby still in the crib and no oxygen was given to him.
The nurse, according to the emotional woman, had disappeared.
Fearful for her baby’s life Alphonso said that she rushed out looking for any medical person who was willing to help her. She eventual pounced unto a gathering of doctors and medical students and continued her appeal for assistance.
Though reluctant at first one doctor eventually heeded the desperate woman’s cry and sought to examine the child. His observation prompted an emergency call, which was echoed throughout the hospital for all doctors to report to the paediatric nursery.
“They all started scrambling to my baby’s crib and my pressure just went up…So they had to give me some injections.”
Soon after the commotion, a saddened Alphonso recounted that a nurse approached her informing that her baby had died.
Although no post mortem was carried out according to the woman the death certificate stated that the child died as a result of great blood loss and respiratory failure.
However, based on information from a doctor, who requested anonymity, the tube through which the baby was being fed had punctured a cord leading to his lungs, which resulted in internal bleeding.
Alphonso related that since her son’s death medical officials at the GPHC have been trying to change the circumstances, which led to the death in an attempt to rule out negligence.
According to the woman all she desires is a thorough investigation into the death of her baby. However, based on what she had experienced there is no doubt in her mind that had nurses been more vigilant a death could have been prevented.
Efforts to contact Dr Madan Rambaran, Director of Medical and Professional Services at the GPHC, for a comment yesterday were futile.
However, Chief Medical Officer, Mr Michael Khan, assured that he would look into the matter with much urgency before offering a comment.
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