Tales of pain from hospitals
Olive Matipwiri, 13, was born on September 11, 2008.
She was born with cerebral palsy, a condition believed to have come about because of negligence of doctors at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
That is according to the girl’s father, George Matipwiri. Matipwiri said his first child was born through caesarean section.
And when his wife got pregnant for the second time, the doctors said it would not be possible for her to give birth normally due to the previous caesarean record.
When she went into labour in 2008, she was left two days in pain without being attended to.
After seeing the pain that the wife was going through, Matipwiri sought the help of another doctor who said the wife had been delayed to be taken to the theatre.
To relieve her of the pain, the doctor gave her a medication called pethidine and he went on to attend to other patients, forgetting that Mrs Matipwiri would need to be taken to the theatre not too long after the pethidine administration.
It was only later that the doctor remembered this. In the theatre, when Olive was born, she never cried as it normally happens.
“My wife asked the doctor and the nurse why the baby was not crying and the response was ‘she will cry’,” Matipwiri said.
The doctor then said the hospital had an antidote that they could use to awaken Olive as, in his opinion, the pethidine the mother had taken before going to the theatre had sedated the baby.
By then, five minutes had gone without Olive crying which was abnormal.
“The doctor told us that the crying that we hear is actually that the baby is gasping for more oxygen as she gets her independence from the umbilical cord,” he said.
But Olive did not cry. They went home with a baby who did not cry at birth.
Almost two weeks later, they received a call from a doctor, a relation of theirs, who was also working at the hospital by that time. The doctor was not sending congratulatory messages.
He told Matipwiri “to be strong as your child might have a disability that happened due to long time the mother waited before she could give birth.”
The caller said the disability was not something that the doctors could do anything about because it affects the brain.
“The news brought sorrow in my life and that of my household. The news was given to us when the baby was about two weeks old. And we were told to observe how the baby would be behaving,” Matipwiri said.
He adds that as if that was not enough, his wife also got sick soon afterwards and was rushed to the hospital.
The diagnosis found some decomposing wool in the uterus, stuff forgotten by the doctors during the caesarean birth of Olive.
Only one thing could cure her: removing the uterus.
“This was the lowest moment of my life. The same hospital that had made my child to be born with a disability was now removing the uterus of my wife. I burnt with anger,” Matipwiri said.
Some of these details are contained in letters of complaint and court documents which The Sunday Times has seen as the Matipwiris sought legal help in 2011 for the events leading to Olive’s birth and to the removal of the uterus that gave birth to her.
In court, the hospital admitted these errors. The family was awarded K21 million as compensation for what happened to Olive and her mother.
But Matipwiri said the money was far too little to make up for the suffering the family has been exposed to.
“The damage was just too much to fair human living,” he said.
He said as days went by after they brought baby Olive home, she could cry consistently for two days. And she was not behaving normally.
This prompted the family to start seeking medical help. They were told the condition had no medication. It was cerebral palsy. Since Olive was born, their lives revolve around going in and out of hospital.
“There was a time we had to spend close to three months in the hospital as Olive was not well. As time went by, we learnt more about the disability and how best we could handle her,” he added.
He said the family was once referred to South Africa where Olive had to meet doctors that prescribed the chairs suitable for her condition.
“The chairs are very costly and many parents with children who have Olive’s condition cannot afford to purchase them,” Matipwiri said.
He said they are having to contend with discrimination of their child because of her condition.
“We were once denied a flight just because of her disability and there is no special government intervention towards people with cerebral palsy,” he said.
One of the country’s experts in cerebral palsy, Victor Musowa, said while the government may be trying to address the plight of children with cerebral palsy, there are challenges in identifying the condition in its early stages.
“Identification is always delayed and majority of people don’t understand the condition. This delays the process of treatment,” Musowa said.