Couple speaks of joy turned pain after losing infant at KNH

Ann, who lost her baby at KNH, during an interview. (Edward Kiplimo, Standard)
They are both dressed in black, with Ann stretched out on a sofa, covered in a baby shawl, while her husband, Raphael, lulls their two-year-old.

This was supposed to be a time of joy, welcoming a new life into the world. Instead, they have just come from their newborn baby’s funeral at Lang’ata cemetery. Her name was Hope.

They are exhausted – both of them had been asleep when I had tried to reach them earlier. Exhausted from the gravity of the situation, from trying to understand what happened, and Ann is exhausted from trying to recover from the caesarean section she had to deliver the baby she will never get to hold.

Earlier this week, reports emerged that Kenya National Hospital (KNH) may have lost 11 babies under one month old to a suspected bacterial infection.

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Hezekiel Gikambi, a communications officer at KNH however dismissed the reports yesterday as untrue. 

Ann and Raphael lost theirs at KNH on Wednesday. Coincidentally, a friend of theirs also lost their child on the same day. “We went to view our dead babies together,” says Raphael.

They do not know if it was the same thing that happened to their baby, but they are stumped as to how she was doing so well and then suddenly developed complications and died.

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“My water broke on Sunday before the baby was due, and at the hospital I was forced to stay on the queue. I was only attended to when I started bleeding non-stop and was rushed for an emergency scan, then taken for emergency caesarean section,” says Ann.

“The person who removed the baby showed her to me and I heard her crying. I later asked about the baby and I was told she was taken to the nursery, she was 1.56kg and was doing well.”

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She got to see her baby on Monday at 6pm. She was in an incubator with three other babies, and she was told everything was okay. They would only have to wait a little until the baby gained weight to 2kg and take her home.

Meanwhile, she was taught how to feed the baby breastmilk through a syringe, and how to check that the baby had digested the contents of the previous feeding.

“I saw that she was passing stool and urine well and I changed her diapers. I was at peace because she seemed completely fine and I had been told that she was,” she says.

Doctor’s report

The doctor’s official report says the baby was born through an emergency c-section prematurely (30 weeks or approximately 7.5 months) because of antepartum haemorrage (mother bleeding). The baby was in fair general condition, not pale or cyanosed (having bluish discolouration of the skin) or jaundiced (yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes).

However, on Tuesday at noon, she found her baby in an oxygen mask, and in another machine.

“I was told that the incubator had become too hot and the baby had started changing colour, but I could feed her. On Wednesday at 9am I told the doctor that the baby had not passed urine since the previous day but had passed stool and he said they would observe her, but that it was possible that the urine might have been mixed with the stool,” says Ann.

The baby was still in the oxygen mask later on Wednesday, and she realised at 3pm that she had not digested the milk she had given her earlier. She was being taken in and out of the incubator, but later Ann found the milk she drew using the syringe from the pipe used to feed her had blood stains and the baby was struggling to breathe. Her neck also felt stiff and her legs were hot and hard. The baby had also stopped passing stool by this time despite being fed.

Upon asking what the problem was, the nurse asked her if she had been told what the condition of her baby was.

“I had only been told that the baby was premature, her weight, and that she had no complications and that is what I told that nurse. Then she told me that my baby was very sick and had a blood infection,” Anne says.

The doctor’s report after the baby’s death says despite being alert, the baby had signs of a congenital abnormality known as Down Syndrome, which in this case was shown by low set ears, flat nasal bridge and abnormal neonatal reflexes (such as a weak suckling reflex) and had a dimple in the lower back. In rare cases, that dimple can be a sign of an underlying spinal problem, but usually it is not a cause for concern.

Later that Wednesday, the baby started gasping and the doctors tried to resuscitate her but the baby was pronounced dead at 10.20pm.

“When we were leaving we were handed a bill for a scan that was supposed to have been done but I discovered was not done so we did not pay for it. Many things do not add up,” says Ann.

But Raphael says despite following up, they were and still are at a loss over what to do.

“We worked so hard to make sure the pregnancy went fine and the baby was okay,” he says.

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KNHKenya National HospitalChild Deaths