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Agony for woman detained over Sh2m bill after son's lungs collapsed

Health & Science
 Grace Ngure with her husband detained at Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital over Sh1 million bill. [Rosa Agutu, Standard]

“Sometimes I go to the bathroom and just kneel down and cry, asking God why me, why my child? Sometimes I think of dying. Maybe if I die, they will release my baby,” says Grace Ngure who has been in the hospital since January following her sons breathing complications and a hospital bill that is above Sh2 million.

Grace describes her second pregnancy as normal compared to her first, she delivered her son Kylian on January 28, 2023, after prolonged labour. After delivery she noticed that the doctors were suctioning her baby.

“They were inserting a machine in his nose and removing dirt, then they rushed him and put him on oxygen. When I asked they told me the baby had passed poop and had gone to the lungs,” she says.

The following day they were discharged. When they got home within an hour they noticed the baby was crying beyond control and he had difficulty in breathing. They had to rush him to the hospital.

“The baby was turning blue while we were on the way. When we reached the hospital, they said it was an emergency, the baby needed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the hospital was a level four hospital and did not have NICU. We tried 3 hospitals and they did not have the facility,” she says

On the way they called Kenyatta National Hospital but there was no space

“While in the ambulance the whole time, I was massaging the baby’s feet so that he does not fall asleep, because if he did we could lose him,” she says

After calling her father, they decided to take the baby to Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital KUTRRH.

“The KUTRRH, emergency was amazing, they took as directly to NICU, but they had no space so they had to create a space close to the door,” she says

They told her and her husband not leave, she had no idea that they were trying to resuscitate the baby. After resuscitating him they told her to go and open a file for the baby, the registration required a deposit of Sh30,000.

“Nilimwambia ngoja narudi nikaenda kupiga story na soldier. I didn’t have the money but I knew my baby was out of danger. I told them that someone is coming to pay in the morning so they gave me the papers to sign. They did not ask for the deposit again,’ she says

The first day Kylian was put on a type of oxygen called C-Pap(continuous positive airway pressure) a machine that uses mild air pressure to keep breathing airways open while you sleep but he was not responding so they called her and told her that they had to intubate the baby.

“Mimi hata najua intubation ni nini? Sijui.  Hata hii C-pap najua ni nini, sijui? I just agreed because they were the experts, they told me to stay there and watch but I do not remember anything. They had to sedate the baby and also being sedated the whole duration of intubation,” she says

The first born is traumatised

Their first born daughter, 3-year-old Gianna saw the whole ordeal and has been reliving it. Every time she would hear a sound she would cover her ears thinking it’s the ambulance that took her baby brother and mother.

“There’s a very nice nurse here, called Katunge who told me to go home and be with Gianna she needed me more, since Killian was sedated,” she says

She commuted for 3 days then the baby subconsciously removed the pipes so they had to return them, he removed them again. And that is when they took him back to C-Pap.

His lungs collapsed and they had to do regular X-rays to monitor the heart. The nurse was very encouraging.

“The nurses at KUTRRH NICU were so amazing, I have never met such nurses in my life. They would talk to the baby and tell him that he would recover and breathe on his own,” she says.

The lungs recovered, after NICU, they went to the new born unit in April. Then the General ward. Right now the baby weighs 4.5 kilos still struggling with weight, the fear is that the more he stays in the hospital the more he’s susceptible to infections.

The bill, trauma and stress

“It’s not easy, here in the general ward we were many but now I am alone. When the last mother left with her child, I really cried, it was not an easy day for me. But I believe my day will come, well-wishers will help us settle the bill and I will take my baby home,” she says

Grace’s sister gave birth and went home with her baby, so her daughter Gianna is wondering how come her mother never returned.

“She needs someone to talk to, I need someone to talk to. I am not okay; I am giving up” she says

James Otieno, the father on his part as the head of the house he feels the pressure. When the bill was skyrocketing he took a placard and went to the streets. He was able to get Sh350,000 from that.

James is a cab driver but his hours are limited; he has to be at home with their daughter.

As at Wednesday September 6, 2023, the bill was Sh999,759.

New born Complications

Dr Adnaan Mustafa a pediatrician at Nairobi West Hospital says the complications a new born can have are breathing difficulties, infections, jaundice, congenital anomalies meaning defects.

“A newborns lung can collapse if the baby is born premature or when the baby passes stool while in the womb and goes to the lungs known as meconium aspiration, or when there is air trapping in the lungs known as pneumothorax,” Dr Adnaan says.

His sentiments are echoed by Dr Saudah Farooqui, a Consultant Obstetrician And Gynecologist at Nairobi west Hospital who says the baby can pass the stool before birth due to distress or if baby gets tired.

 Dr Saudah Farooqui, a Consultant Obstetrician And Gynecologist at Nairobi west Hospital. [Rosa Agutu, Standard]

“The amniotic fluid becomes thick depending on the amount of stool and the amount of amniotic fluid. The thicker the stool the more dangerous it is as baby can inhale it. If that happens it enters the lungs and cause issues for baby to breathe after birth,” she says

Dr Saudah adds that post term babies might pass stool before birth and that is a normal occurrence because they have matured and not because the baby is under distress.

Psychological help

Referring to the family's first born daughter, counseling psychologist Jacque Gathu says that children notice things happening in homes. They do feel when things aren't going on right.

Gathu says the child is traumatised and in her own way, she is going through the cycle of loss and grief. She is experiencing trauma as well, knowing her mum is in hospital, having the idea that her sibling is hospitalised and seeing the strain in the parents.

“She is mourning the loss of her mum's affection and presence in her life. She is also mourning the loss of not having her sibling around as anticipated. Her childhood is also lost in the stage because everyone is just going around, trying to find a solution so this child is forced to grow up. There is a huge probability that this girl will be a parentified child because she has to snap out of this and take care of herself, “says Gathu

Gathu adds that you can see the traumatic experience she went through, such that noise startles her which means she has anxiety and panic attacks.  Looking deeper, she has poor sleeping habits, low appetite and has probably regressed developmentally.

“It would not be a wonder if she started bed wetting or behaving like an infant who needs constant attention,” she says

To help this child, play therapy is needed.

“This is where we use therapeutic toys, engage the child to give her story and her interpretation of what is happening as she plays. At 3, she is not fully eloquent and because play is the language of a child, it would be easier for her to open up,” she says

On the parents’ trauma Gathu says that there’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

“The reason am mentioning this is because, the whole family at large is going through these painful changes. They could all do with seeing a loss and grief therapist to help them transition,” she says

In a normal set up, an expectant woman goes to hospital, has the baby and comes back home. In this case, this didn't happen. The baby was unhealthy, numerous hospital visit, admissions and the trauma of being detained because of bills.

“It's a lot for a person to absorb. Getting someone to hold their hand is key here. Because they need psychosocial support to make them feel comforted and assured,” she adds.

The man also is undergoing a tough moment trying to make ends meet and must have feelings of insufficiency and low self-esteem. He needs to have his morale boosted and encouragement to remain hopeful even in the midst of the storm.

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