Ms Belinda Makadia Namboka. Her child died at Kenyatta National Hospital over lack of enough life support machines. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO
By ELIZABETH MERAB
A young mother’s hopes of going home with her new bundle of joy was short-lived after losing her baby under what she describes as avoidable circumstances.
The mother, Belinda Makadia Namboka, claimed that her baby died because Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) said it did not have a life support machine, despite reassurances from her attending doctor that there were adequate machines should there be need for one.
The young mother further accused KNH of not seeking her consent early enough to administer a life-saving drug to her son, yet the medical staff knew that consent was part of the hospital’s policy.
It is, however, not yet clear whether or not the referral facility asks for consent before administering the drug known as surfactant as doctors working at the facility denied this claim, saying that the drug is given to newborns to save their lives.
“They had said they have a well-equipped NICU. Having only NHIF (medical insurance) cover, that had informed our decision to choose KNH for our delivery. I look at the other babies currently on the machine almost jealously,” she wrote on her Blog.
Last month, upon delivering her baby, Belinda found herself in a desperate situation trying to save her only baby’s life after he was born prematurely and was in need of a life-saving drug and a life support machine.
Her last-minute desperate questions: “Can we move him to the private wing? Can we try other hospitals? Can we go to Agha Khan? Nairobi Hospital? Anywhere else with a free life support machine?” were not alternatives at that critical moment.
BABY WAS WEAK
They all came to a cropper as the paediatrician on duty told her that the baby was too weak to be transferred.
Frustratingly, the only available machine already had another baby plugged on and, in her frantic quest, Belinda even requested if the two babies could share the machine but that was not possible.
While it was their desire to see the baby live, a doctor working at KNH said, “We are not the ones who decide who lives and who dies. We can only work with what we have.”
According to Belinda, her son was not given the surfactant in time because the hospital failed to inform her that they needed a signed consent from her.
Premature babies, especially those with breathing problems, are immediately transferred to the NICU and plugged onto machines to keep them alive.
Prematurity can lead to breathing and other problems for the baby. Some babies even need an oil, known as surfactant, to help with their breathing.
Surfactant is an oily substance produced by the lungs to help in the breathing process by helping keep airways open.
Since Jabali was born prematurely at 30 weeks, his body had not yet produced surfactant, meaning that his breathing was laboured, therefore needing a the drug.
A baby’s lung is considered mature by week 36, when surfactant lung maturity has occurred at week 34.