How medical negligence is robbing families of loved ones
3 weeks ago, 00:07
Inside the quiet intensive care unit at a top private hospital in Nairobi, Awino Okech held her mother’s hand, weeping silently.
It was about 4pm and Ms Awino, a lecturer at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, had only a few minutes to see her mother, Dolphine.
From the hospital bed, Dolphine, wearing a sky-blue hospital gown, an oxygen mask strapped to her face, struggled to speak.
“I am not feeling well,” she whispered, trying to pull off the mask.
That was December 15, 2010.
The 64-year-old patient had been admitted at the hospital three days before for a three-hour operation to remove her uterus to stop further spread of cervical cancer.
Dolphine’s symptoms had appeared eight months earlier in Kisumu County. She had a series of medical tests done that confirmed that she had the early stages of cervical cancer.
She then travelled to Nairobi where doctors confirmed the cancer and recommended that she should seek immediate treatment.
“Since she was in her sixties, we agreed that an operation to remove her uterus would be best for her,” said Awino.
On December 11, 2010, a day before the scheduled surgery, Awino and her siblings drove their mother to a private hospital in Nairobi for admission.
On December 12, Dolphine was wheeled into theatre for the surgery. Her family waited outside the theatre for hours.
At 11 o’clock, she was wheeled out and transferred to the surgical ward. On the third day, she was allowed to eat.
Then everything started to go south. That night, shortly after she had been allowed to eat, Dolphine developed complications. She had trouble breathing and her blood pressure plummeted.
But it wasn’t until the afternoon, when her breathing became more laboured, that she was transferred to the intensive care unit.
A day later, at around 11pm, when other patients were drifting away to sleep, Dolphine breathed her last.
Doctors at the hospital told the family she died of a bacterial infection. But Awino and her siblings were not satisfied with this explanation and demanded an autopsy with an independent pathologist present.
The outcome showed that Dolphine did indeed die of a bacterial infection. But that was not all.
The autopsy also found out that the infection had been caused by tiny holes in the intestines - they were punctured during the surgery.
This meant that the contents of her intestines had started leaking into her bloodstream, effectively poisoning her.
On further review of Dolphine’s medical records, the family discovered that there was a close to six-hour window in which she could have have been taken back to theatre to save her life.
“There was every sign that my mother’s death could have been prevented if the doctors responded swiftly when she began complaining of discomfort on the night of December 13,” said Awino.
The family filed a complaint at the Kenya’s Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB). The process of filing was far from easy.
First, the patient or his or her kin is required to lodge ...
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