My son would be alive if I didn’t take him to KNH, mother claims

Susan Nduta Mburu holds a photo of her late son Leon Nyongesa. She alleges her son died at KNH due to negligence. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]
Like the pale red blood stain on Ms Susan Mburu’s grey jumper, the pain she feels, one of a mother who lost a child too young, will never go away...

Days after her three-year-old son Leon Nyongesa, died Ms Mburu is still struggling to make sense of the death, one she believes could have been avoided if doctors and nurses at the Kenyatta National Hospital would have attended to him promptly.

On the Monday of March 25, her son was fine and they even went out for lunch.

That evening, while Leon was not seriously ill, Mburu decided to take him to a clinic near their home in Nairobi, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and instructed to a day later for treatment.

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By 10 am on Tuesday, Mburu reveals, Leon’s condition was worsening but he was not badly off.

At noon, she took him back to the hospital. The doctors gave him medicine and told her to take him back later for an injection.

When they returned home in the afternoon, Leon played with his toys in the living room before taking a nap. It was not long before Leon began displaying minor signs of illness, mostly fever, Mburu recounts.

“They just gave us medicine and said they can’t inject him until the evening, so we went back home,” Mburu notes.

Everything, however, took a turn at around midnight.

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“By around midnight his fever had become too high and he was mumbling to himself”.

In the urgency of the moment, Mburu decided to take Leon to hospital, bypassing several hospitals in favour of Kenyatta National Hospital, a decision she now says she regrets.

“We got to KNH before 2 a.m. and stayed in line waiting to see a doctor for hours. It was only at 7.30 a.m. that we were finally attended to,” Mburu told Standard as she cried uncontrollably.

While the previous hospital revealed Leon had pneumonia, KNH told Mburu and her husband that Leon had malaria and admitted him into Ward 3D at 8 a.m., then put him on a fluid drip.

She says that even despite the admission, her son was not seen by a doctor.

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“A nutritionist passed around and asked how the child was feeding at 8 a.m.,” she says.

Several hours elapsed, Mburu reveals, yet no doctor came to see them.

“I noticed the drip was not transmitting fluids into the body but pulling out blood”.

Alarmed, she frantically called for a nurse or doctor and even ran out to a desk where some were seated, begging them to check on her son, but she claimed they adamantly refused to go into the ward to see him.

Instead, she says, they asked her to take the boy to them.

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She claims the doctor at the ward told her, “Don’t disturb me. Why can’t he drink water through the mouth?”

Out of desperation, she says, she along with her husband, pulled out the drip from Leon, spilling out blood onto the sheets and his clothes. They frantically rushed him to the hospital staff, who were still seated by the desk.

The three-year-old Leon, scared and sickly, clung tightly onto Mburu, his bloodied hands leaving stains on her jumper. By then, Mburu reveals, Leon’s fever had heightened and so had his mumbling.

‘This is Kenyatta’

Instead of attending to them, amidst tears, Mburu claims that the doctors and nurses rudely told them to get Leon away from the desk because he was dirtying it with his blood.

Mburu further claims that when she continued begging the doctor in charge of the ward to help her, she rudely told her, “You will know this is Kenyatta, not a private hospital”.

She adds that she asked the hospital to discharge her son so she could take him to a private hospital, but the staff refused.

Mburu claims the staff refused to give him medicine, telling her that the hospital did not have medicine.

She further claims that just one nurse sneaked her son pills, requesting her not to tell anyone.

As the day progressed, Leon worsened. He experienced heart palpitations accompanied by bleeding from the mouth, a fact she accuses the staff of trying to falsely pass off by saying the boy was bleeding because he had bitten himself on the mouth.

Again, Mburu and her husband rushed Leon to the doctor, whom she says refused to put an oxygen mask over his face and instead told them to do it themselves, at around 7.30 p.m. that night.

She adds that a student at the hospital tried to help them by inserting the oxygen pipes into Leon’s nostrils yet immediately she did so, blood started oozing out and the student told them he may be bleeding internally.

At 9 pm that Wednesday, March 27, within seconds of removing the pipe, Mburu claims, Leon soiled himself and died.

What angers her, Mburu told Standard, is the fact that three doctors and a swarm of nurses rushed to her son’s bed when he died, yet when he was still breathing and fighting for his life, they were adamant to treat, medicate or even just take a look at him.

She also claims that the doctors gave her sketchy explanations, not adequately explaining what caused her son’s bleeding yet he had been admitted with malaria.

Mburu believes the staff may have caused the bleeding and subsequent demise of her son due to their negligent actions, ranging from refusing to attend to him and failing to give him medicine because the hospital did not have drugs.

After Leon’s death, Mburu says the doctor who had refused to attend to them asked for her forgiveness, blaming her inefficiency on an overwhelming workload and extreme stress.

But Mburu says her son was innocent and should not have paid the price for lack of drugs or stressed and overworked doctors with his young life.

She adds that she is contemplating action against the hospital but is speaking out so other parents do not have to lose their children at the hospital as she did.

While she states that she is sure her son would still be alive had she taken him to another hospital, Ms Mburu finds consolation in the belief that her son's demise was for a reason.

She told Standard, “I observed many injustices at the hospital. One doctor refused to treat a child until the mother cleared outstanding bills. Some of the staff harass and scare children. Many of the people are just unable to speak out”.

KNH disputes Mburu’s account, claiming that Leon was thoroughly attended to.

However, KNH’s Communication Manager, Mr Hezekiel Gikambi says the hospital cannot disclose more details since the patient is deceased and was a child.

He adds that Ms Mburu can follow official channels and file a complaint against the personnel or with the hospital if she feels her child’s death was caused by negligence.

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Kenyatta National HospitalMedical negligenceSusan MburuLeon Nyongesa