Connie Mbithe, from Ngaa village, Mbooni, in Makueni County had planned to have three children, but her pregnancy journeys have posed life-threatening complications since 2014.
She was elated when went to deliver at the Mbooni Sub-County Hospital, but a few days later she plunged into grief and despair after walking home empty-handed.
Mbithe also lost her pregnancies in 2016 and 2018 again at the same facility.
“I went home again alone and in tears,” she says, adding that no one told her exactly why she was losing her babies at birth.
A neighbour advised her to seek alternative medicine, attributing her losses to a family curse.
After losing four consecutive pregnancies, she became spiritual.
“It was such a gut-wrenching moment for me although I have a loving husband, I thought I owe him a baby,” she explains.
“I prayed to God to intervene and it dawned on me that I was not consistent in attending clinics to get the best medical attention.”
Early last year, medics at Mbooni Sub-County Hospital unraveled her mysterious losses during delivery. All along she suffered fluctuating high blood pressures during every pregnancy, triggering pre-eclampsia.
A compassionate birthing team trained in Obstetric Safe Surgery (OSS programme) for surgical and overall healthcare attended to her in the modern theatre thanks to Johnson & Johnson in conjunction with Johns Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynaecology and Obstetrics.
The Obstetric Safe Surgery pilot programme in Kenya which was rolled out in Makueni County last year aims at teaching the concept of teamwork and surgical safety checklists to reduce surgical site infections resulting in zero-rating perioperative mortality rates after Caesarean sections.
It is now no longer surprising when a pregnant woman is wheeled into the Makueni theatre like before. Medics are now able to arrest threatening conditions before they happen.
Take Dorcus Kasemba. The 35-year-old is a happy mother of one after losing her firstborn in 2016 when she suffered meconium aspiration syndrome while in a Nairobi hospital. Medics revealed that her had passed poop in the womb, and died.
After moving to Makueni, Kasemba received her bundle of joy last year following the introduction of the OSS programme. She named her baby, Neema, due to the rocky path she went through.
Then there is Dorcus Muthui, a mother of three from Kunda Kindu village in Wote. Muthui says “I have delivered all my children by CS. In the latest birth, I was discharged after three days.”
The current maternal care has attracted women across the neighbouring counties like Ann Makena from Rombo, at the Kenya-Tanzania border. Her third delivery was in Makueni to where she spoke to Health & Science from her bed in the post-CS nursing room inside Makindu hospital.
Caster Kavutha, 33, had her firstborn via OSS at Mbooni hospital where she also recently delivered her twins the same way. She has since learnt about among other things C-section scars care. “You are not supposed to apply things like soot, you leave the incision points dry,” she says.
Community Health Assistants assisted by Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) monitor the health of mothers after discharge.
Dr Nthenya Mbithi, an obstetrician-gynaecologist based at Makueni Mother and Child hospital and a trainer on OSS, says before the OSS was introduced in 2020 about 4,000 deliveries registered were CS with more maternal deaths recorded.