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Baby's hand, foot amputated after BCG vaccination

Thursday April 11 2019

medical negligence

Peter Gitonga and his wife Leah comfort their baby who had his hand and foot amputated. They say the situation was brought about by medical negligence. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC WAINAINA
By ERIC WAINAINA
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Mr Peter Gitonga and his wife Leah Waithira are angry and disappointed parents.

Their two-month-old baby is in pain after his hand and foot were amputated, a situation they say was occasioned by possible medical negligence.

Doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) were forced to carry partial foot (at the ankle) and arm (at the wrist) amputations on baby Austin Njoroge following complications developed after a BCG vaccination.

Ms Waithira, a first-time mother, delivered through caesarean section on February 7 this year at Kihara Hospital in Kiambu. She was discharged three days later.

IMMUNISED

The doctors advised her to return the following morning so that the infant could get BCG and polio vaccinations. The BCG jab was administered in his left hand and the polio one orally.

But Ms Waithera says that when she returned home, she noticed that the baby was uncomfortable: he had difficulty in breathing, was crying a lot and had refused to breastfeed.

At midday, she noticed that the spot on the upper-left arm where the BCG jab was administered had become cold and numb, but she did not take it seriously.

As time went the baby showed signs of being unwell, and at around 9pm she and her husband took the baby to a local clinic but were referred to Kihara Hospital.

MEDICAL TESTS

At Kihara, the doctors ran some tests but assured them that the vaccination could not have caused the complications.

"The doctor pricked a finger on the left hand but there was no blood. He used the same needle to prick a toe on the right foot. After the test, he informed us that the sugar level was too low, and that the baby was dehydrated. He insisted that he be admitted," Ms Waithira told the Nation in an interview at their home in Ndenderu village in Kiambaa.

The following day the mother noticed that part of the affected hand had turned dark blue. She alerted a nurse who advised her to notify the doctor on duty.

But by midday the discolouration had disappeared, heaving a sigh of relief.

Then, come 2pm, the discolouration recurred, this time also appearing on the right foot.

SEPSIS

Before they carried out further tests to establish whether the baby was bleeding internally, the parents were referred to Kiambu Level Five Hospital.

The referral sheet, dated February 13, indicated that the baby was diagnosed with "neonatal sepsis". They were again referred to Kenyatta National Hospital.

In the referral sheet, the Kihara doctors indicted that "currently child is alert, looks dehydrated", and had been referred to [a] "paediatric surgeon … and possible amputation".

At KNH, where the baby was admitted for one and a half months, the affected hand and foot swell.

QUESTIONS LINGER

After the swellings burst, the limbs began rotting, leaving amputation as the only option to prevent further infection.

Although the doctors tried to convince the couple that the vaccination was not to blame, they believe it is and keep asking why their baby did not develop any problems on his left foot, from which doctors at the Kiambu hospital also drew blood.

Kiambu Health Executive Mary Kamau on Wednesday said she had not been informed about the matter but would comment after talking to the relevant people.