It may be touted as East and Central Africa’s largest referral hospital, but Ms Susan Wanjiru would rather replace “referral” with “transferral”.
She transferred her baby from Kenyatta National Hospital to AIC Kijabe Hospital, crying foul all the way.
Ms Wanjiru is convinced things did not have to go that way. Breast-feeding Lesley Wanjiru in room 60C at Kijabe’s paediatric wing, the 30-year-old mother says her daughter’s amputation only became necessary after poor medical treatment at the teaching and referral hospital.
“I went to Kenyatta with a baby that was whole, and I ended up leaving with a disabled daughter,” she sighs.
Ms Wanjiru initially took her daughter to Kenyatta “around August 18” for pneumonia treatment. As part of the treatment in ward 3A, Lesley was put on an intravenous drip.
The drip was placed on her left hand, but when it started swelling, the needle was moved to her right one. Three weeks later, by the time Lesley was supposed to be discharged, it was clear that something was wrong.
“Her hand looked strange… it was losing colour,” Ms Wanjiru recalls. Nurses told her that a blood clot was causing an infection, and that surgery was necessary.
One nurse told her not to feed Lesley. The same evening, another nurse said she could go ahead and feed her. When morning arrived and she was told the operation would indeed take place, hospital staff scolded her for feeding Lesley.
“I was so confused,” Ms Wanjiru says. “I was not comfortable in that place.”
She felt poor treatment, rather than a blood clot, was to blame for the worsening state of her daughter’s arm. “I’m convinced it was not a clot,” she states defiantly. “It was those needles they put in her.”
Nurses at Kijabe seem to support her position. “Was a blood clot a possibility? I do not think so… the tissue was affected, not just the blood,” says Purity Ngugi, one of the nurses now attending to Lesley.
When the Nation first broke the story two weeks ago, KNH spokesman Simon Ithae said the hospital was “unwilling” to divulge information on Wangari’s saga until chief executive Jotham Micheni, was “properly briefed”.
On Wednesday, the spokesman said: “The patient was discharged against doctors’ advice. Now we can’t comment on a patient who is no longer at our hospital.”
Last week, when KNH staff told her Lesley’s arm would have to be amputated, Ms Wanjiru asked if she could take her daughter elsewhere. “I wanted a second opinion… I did not have faith in them.”
But the hospital made Ms Wanjiru stay, since she owed the hospital Sh114,000. She was placed in a room, where 10 other women were sharing beds with their infants, with some mattresses scattered across the floor.
She was finally allowed to leave following an NTV report on Friday about her daughter’s desperate medical situation.
Hospital chiefs visited her and offered to amputate Lesley’s arm free, but she felt bitter and insisted on leaving.
On Wednesday, baby Lesley was wrapped in blankets, medical tubes over her face as she recovers from surgery. Behind her was a painting of a woman with clasped hands in solemn prayer.
The six-month-old infant from Kasarani will never fold one hand. On Monday, doctors amputated her right arm above the elbow, after the gangrenous infection threatened to spread to the rest of her body.
White bandages, stained with blood, cover what is now left of her right arm.Kijabe hospital staff say doctors there perform amputations on children only when their lives are in danger.
It is a rare procedure and more time is instead spent on corrective procedures for cleft lips, club feet and other birth defects.
“In many cases early detection can help avoid it altogether,” hospital spokesman Nelson Kimilu said. Hospital officials say they are focused on treating the infant.
“Our mission is to give compassionate care,” said Mr Kimilu, who believes the medical cost will be at least Sh17,000. “If the family is unable to pay, we’ll appeal through the media.”
Ms Wanjiru expects KNH to cover at least part of the bill. She has already contacted rights and professional organisations for support.
“What else am I supposed to do?” she asks. “One day Lesley will grow up and ask questions about what happened to her arm, questions that I will never be able to answer.”