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Grave matters: How my son 'resurrected' then died again

 George Asiago

The sombre burial of a dead newborn baby turned into a celebratory mood with deafening cheers, as news filtered to the mourners the baby was still alive.

Baby Emmanuel had been ‘dead’ for two days. During the funeral service in the homestead of its grandfather in Nyaigwa, Nyamira County, on July 7, an aunt of the newborn, Veronica Kemuma, decided to open the white coffin to check if her nephew was laid correctly. But to her surprise, she was met with a gentle smile from the baby!

“I just wanted to ensure the baby is well covered before he was laid to rest,” said Veronica, “but I was shocked when I saw movement of the fingers and a smiling face which were followed by a slight stretch.”  

She raised the alarm, which sent mourners scampering for safety.

The infant’s father, George Asiago, was equally dumbfounded as he got hold of Emmanuel, kissed him before hastily administering first aid. Tears of joy rolled down his cheeks.

“We gave him warm water before rushing him to Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital where he was admitted for more than 12 hours before he passed away,” he said.

Back at the graveside, mourners quickly covered the grave and burnt the coffin.

Emmanuel had been delivered prematurely at home and was rushed to Nyamira County Referral Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead by a nursing officer. Instead of being taken to the mortuary, the medics, some of whom are relatives of the bereaved parents, recommended that the baby be buried.

The father recalled: “The nurse wrapped the baby in a shawl and put him in a carton box then advised us to carry him home for burial.” 

The father is still looking for answers. “My son didn’t have to die due to neglect by hospital staff, who declared him dead when he seriously needed a life support machine,” said  Asiago, who works with a parastatal in Nyamira.  

By the time all that was happening, the mother, Jackline Moraa, was under medical supervision.

“I thanked God for the miracle but again I think it was His will to take him away after we saw him alive for the second time,” the mother, who is still admitted at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital following complications that arose during the pregnancy, said.

Nyamira County Health Executive, Andrew Ombati, and the Director of Medical Services, Dr Jack Magara, apologised to the family over the incident, which they termed as unfortunate.

Ombati added that the nurse who had declared the child dead has been suspended pending investigations as “he went against his mandate of declaring the baby dead, which is the role of a medical doctor.”

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