“My daughter-in-law water bag buss since yesterday morning and she in suh much pain and only now dem preparing she to go theatre,” the woman said, worry etched on her face.
I saw her standing in the compound of the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) near the Maternity Ward, leaning against the wall; it was obvious that she was troubled.
I ventured closer and asked whether she was okay.
“I just so frightened,” she said. “Is since yesterday and now is afternoon and she was in so much pain. Why dem had to wait till now before she go to theatre?” she asked, not expecting an answer.
As she spoke a few other women drew closer and we all offered empathy; there was not much else we could have done.
“Me son with she but me can go up,” she said, this time tears slid down her cheeks.
I advised her to go closer to the theatre, but she wanted to ensure that her daughter-in-law had left before doing so.
“Is she first baby, you know, and you want everything to go well. Is me first grandchild to and me don’t want nothing happen to dem. She is a nice daughter-in-law, like a daughter to me,” she said before she turned and headed to the door of the Maternity Ward.
Over the past week, I have had the traumatizing experience of visiting the GPH–mostly the Maternity Ward—every day and more than once a day. I saw many women leave with their bouncing babies in arms and others who were in obvious pain. And while the physical pain was expected, the emotional pain was difficult to witness. Like that of the mother of three whose foetus was dead inside of her (at least that is what she related).
“I can’t believe the baby dead,” she said in tears. “And now I have to push out the dead baby. This was to be the last one and now the baby ain’t deh no more,” she shared as she lay on the hospital bed.
The conversation was cut short as her relatives arrived, but I could not erase her pained face from my mind. The next day, she was no longer occupying the bed where I had seen her, and my relative did not know where she was taken, only that she was wheeled out of the ward.
I will never know how it feels to lose an unborn child. I could imagine how difficult it is for a mother who would have carried that foetus felt its movement and bonding with it, only to have that child die at birth or be stillborn.
That is the story of Denise, one of my sisters who is in her early thirties and was expecting twin babies. They were due on May 6 but were stillborn on the evening of May 5.
Even though I have seen her every day since the tragedy I have not been able to really ask her how she feels. I have also not been able to look her in the face, for fear of what I would see.
The twins were a boy and a girl, and we were all excited for their birth, but no one could have been more excited than her, I suppose. She endured the discomfort without complaint, no doubt thinking of the day she would lay eyes on them.
That will never be, and I can’t but ask whether the health authorities could have done more. This is not about appropriating blame, but the fact that my sister was hospitalized for two weeks, less than a month before her due date makes one wonder.
She had been hospitalized because she was found to have gestational hypertension and diabetes and was given insulin and showed how to self-medicate to control her sugar level before she was discharged.
She attended her prenatal clinic three days before her children were stillborn and was told that all was well. Prior to that visit she was told that one of the babies was in breech position (bottom first instead of head first) and this worried her.
“I ask them if I have to get c-section, but they said when the first baby pass out then the next one could turn and come out,” she told me during one of our many conversations. Most of the conversations took place on the telephone because she was in a different region.
When she started to feel ‘baby pains’ she knew it was time, but her visit to the hospital, instead of ending joyously was sorrowful. My sister was told that her babies had no heartbeat and that a c-section would be done to remove them. It is unclear as to why this was done because those questions were not asked, and relatives have not been able to meet with the attending physician(s). No effort was made as all attention was on my sister getting well.
“I start to cry and even the doctor start to cry because he know me from the hospital, all of them know me,” my sister said quietly, days after that fateful night as she described how she felt when she was told that the babies were dead.
After the operation, according to reports, my sister bled uncontrollably and was transferred from the New Amsterdam Hospital to GPH, where the bleeding continued. Her husband was then asked to sign a consent form for another surgery to be performed and this time he was given notice that his wife’s uterus could be removed.
He wanted advice before signing the form but was told that it was urgent and there was no time, so he signed. Less than an hour later, his wife was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) minus her uterus removed and on life support.
We were allowed to see her, and she was semi-conscious, the attending physician and nurses of that ICU would only tell us that she was doing fine but could offer no information on the surgery as this needed to come from the doctors of the gynaecology department.
Hours passed before we were given information on the surgery and confirmation that her uterus was removed. Thankfully by then she was conscious and off life support. Today her recovery is on track.
She has children and we are comforted by that fact, but the psychological effect of the loss of her uterus and her twins is my biggest concern.
I will end with a call to health officials to ensure that persons are given information on their relatives in a timely manner. It is unacceptable that a surgery was done at about 5:30 am and relatives were given information just before midday.
I applaud the professionalism of the two doctors who finally spoke to us. One was a consultant and he gave his name as Dr Pedro. The nurses and doctor of the ICU are also to be lauded. But that cannot compensate for the anxious hours we waited, especially Denise’s husband who had not slept for an entire night as he had travelled by ambulance with his wife and then waited throughout.
A better system of communication could have made it better.
For now, we continue to support Denise as she recovers and while I need more information I will allow her and her husband to take the lead as the two hospitals compile their reports.