Were it a perfect world, Esther Njeri Kagia would have turned 39 this Sunday. Unfortunately, she died three weeks to her big day, and under unclear circumstances. She also lost her unborn child.
Perhaps her husband and four children would have had a less hurtful time accepting her death were it not for the manner in which it occurred.
Fredrick Kagia Gathu, Njeri's husband, has a hard time recounting a series of events that led to her death.
Mr Gathu says he took his wife to Kangundo District Hospital on May 28. Her pregnancy was full term and she was to deliver their fifth child. Njeri and her husband arrived at the hospital at 7pm.
The family expected hers to be a normal delivery, as she had not experienced any challenges throughout the pregnancy.
“I filled the required documents and provided all the necessary details, including my cellphone number. I went ahead to pay Sh100 deposit for the admission file. The medical personnel told me to go home and leave Njeri with them, since everything was fine,” Gathu says.
Gathu was shocked when he returned the following morning to find Njeri missing.
“I asked the hospital about my wife’s whereabouts and they informed me that they had transferred her to the Machakos Level Five Hospital. They also told me the baby had died and went ahead to show me the corpse,” he says.
Gathu says the hospital personnel handed him his wife’s belongings.
In shock and weighed down by the heartbreak of losing his child, Gathu rushed to Machakos Level Five Hospital, hoping to find Njeri faring on well.
When he arrived at the hospital, Gathu found out that Njeri had fallen into a coma and had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
"I did not understand what happened because my wife was fine the last time I saw her. The medical personnel had also confirmed that everything was fine."
He adds: “Kangundo Hospital transferred my wife to the Machakos Level Five Hospital the same night she was admitted, and did not bother to inform me,” says Gathu.
He says a doctor at the Machakos hospital told him that Njeri suffered a cardiac arrest during a caesarean section.
"The doctor also said information about the cardiac arrest was not written in her file, and that they discovered it during their own examinations,” says Gathu.
On May 31, Njeri woke up from the coma. Her condition had improved greatly the following day and she moved from the ICU to the general ward.
Two days later, on Sunday June 3, all indicators were that Njeri was recovering well. In a video seen by The Standard, and which was taken that Sunday, a vibrant Njeri is seen talking and smiling from her hospital bed. A half-eaten plate of pilau rests on a table on the bedside.
However, on Monday last week, at 10.30am, Njeri died despite all the hopes she had given her family, leaving behind a shattered husband and distressed children. The children are aged between two and 17 years.
No one called
Even worse is the manner in which her family learnt of her death. No one called to give them the bad news.
Gathu and other family members had gone to check on her as usual only to find her clothes folded and placed on her bed. There was also a note indicating the date and time Njeri died.
"We went to the mortuary after seeing the note and found she was indeed dead," said Njeri's brother-in-law, only identified as Wachira.
Even as the family prepares to bury Njeri on Wednesday in Kabuku, Kiambu, they are convinced her death could have been prevented.
The family says the personnel at Kangundo District Hospital refused to disclose what necessitated the caesarean section, and why the procedure could have gone awry.
Officials at the Machakos hospital declined to comment on the matter when The Standard called, stating that only the hospital’s Medical Superintendent, who was on leave, could speak about it.
Similarly, Kangundo District Hospital declined to talk to The Standard about what happened, with officials only saying they could not inform Gathu of Njeri’s transfer because it was an emergency. They said the priority was to save Njeri's life.
Njeri's family says they privately investigated the matter after the two hospitals refused to give details. "We learnt that an injection she was given to numb her before the Cesarean section went through the spinal cord and affected her heart, sending her into a cardiac arrest and subsequently causing the death of the baby,” says Pastor Ruth Wanja Otsyula, a relative.
On Tuesday last week, the family wrote to the Director of Medical Services in the Ministry of Health to order investigations into the matter.
The family was told that the case had been forwarded to Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union for investigations.