A 20-day-old baby. A blundering doctor. A burial permit. A fresh grave. And a cough from heaven. Sounds like a script from a horror movie? For one family in Kiambu County, this macabre story is real. And fresh.
Doctors at Kiambu Level Five Hospital last week declared a 20-day-old baby dead and issued a burial permit to its distraught parents, who went on to dig a grave in readiness for the boy’s burial.
But, in what could turn out to be one of the worst and most chilling cases of medical malpractice yet, the boy was not dead.
He coughed and started crying just minutes before he was buried at his family’s home in Lioki, Githunguri.
His parents quickly called off the burial ceremony and fed him on milk, then took him to hospital. Sadly, however, the baby died 24 hours later, and now the question tormenting the parents is whether their little bundle of joy could have been saved.
BOOKED FOR ADMISSION
Ms Margaret Ahoi says she took her baby, Joseph Ngugi, to Ngewa Health Centre on the morning of Wednesday last week after she suspected he was unwell as he had not suckled overnight.
Nurses at Ngewa referred her to Kiambu Level Five Hospital, but Ms Ahoi was hesitant to take the baby there as, two weeks earlier, she had lost Baby Ngugi’s twin sister at the same hospital.
However, with no other choice, she agreed to have the baby referred to Kiambu Level Five Hospital, and at noon Baby Ngugi was booked for admission and moved a paediatric ward, where he was put on oxygen and drip medication.
The following day at around 9.30am, three doctors informed Ms Ahoi that her son had died. “Three different doctors separately told me that my baby had passed on. I was in doubt and I kept asking if they were sure about it and they insisted that they had medically confirmed that the baby was no more,” she said.
Ms Ahoi watched as nurses undressed the baby and called a mortuary attendant to collect the body, but upon arrival the mortician declined to collect it because the oxygen machine was still fixed on the tiny boy lying desolately in the hospital bed, cold and tranquil.
RUSHED TO HOSPITAL
Confused, Ms Ahoi tasked a guard to call her mother-in-law Mary Wanjiru, who had visited her at the hospital at around 7am that morning, and inform her about the new developments.
Ms Wanjiru said she rushed to hospital immediately she received the call, wondering what could have happened in the short period between 7am and 9am.
Ms Ahoi and her mother-in-law called their relatives back home and asked them to prepare a grave to inter the body.
Doctors, meanwhile, issued them with a burial permit, and the burial procession left the hospital at around 4pm.
“We handled the baby as a corpse,” said Ms Ahoi. “We, after all, had been informed that he was dead, but when we arrived at home, he coughed and even cried, throwing all of us into confusion. When we uncovered him, we realised that fresh blood was oozing from the point a drip line had been injected on his hand and he had also defecated. Were it not for a delay on the road home, we would have buried him alive.”
Ms Ahoi was too devastated and confused to even breastfeed the infant, but her mother-in-law milked a cow, boiled the milk and fed him twice.
Later on in the evening, however, they noticed that the baby’s nostrils were blocked by thick mucus. They contacted a doctor at the neighbouring Kigumo Level Four Hospital, who instructed them to rush him there for examination and treatment.
Doctors at Kigumo fed the baby with diluted glucose using a syringe, put him in a warm room, cleared his nostrils, and fixed an oxygen system on him.
They also advised Ms Ahoi to report the matter at Kibichoi Police Station. Officers from the station visited the facility, photographed Baby Ngugi while being fed, and recorded a statement from Ms Ahoi.
Later in the night, the doctors referred them to Gatundu Level Five Hospital as the hospital lacked facilities to take good care of the baby.
“We found a very dedicated doctor who took care of my baby from the time we arrived, but he passed on the following day at around 9am,” Ms Ahoi said.
The family was issued with another burial permit and buried the boy hours later. Now the family is demanding action against the doctors at Kiambu Level Five Hospital. They believe their baby would have survived had he been taken good care of at the hospital and the fact that he was undressed, left in the cold and not fed for hours worsened his complications.