(Trinidad Express) When Anita Espinoza heard she was on fire during her Caesarean section, she thought she was going to die.
But while she was instead able to leave San Fernando General Hospital with a healthy baby boy, her physical healing would take months.
Espinoza was burnt on the belly, and the left side of her hip and leg. She said the injuries were “really bad”. For four months she had to leave her home in Tabaquite for treatment at her private doctor.
She sued the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) for medical negligence and last Friday won the matter.
Espinoza told the Express yesterday that she suffered from post-partum depression following the 2016 incident.
“I was crying all the time. I had to heal from the C-section and deal with the burns. It was hard.”
Espinoza, 32, who also has triplets and left her job as a business service assistant to become a stay-at-home mom after they were born nine years ago, said her entire routine changed after she was burnt.
“I couldn’t even take care of my boys. I couldn’t drop them to school or pick them up, and I had to constantly get help. I had to hire somebody, too,” she said.
Espinoza, who is considering reconstructive surgery, as she said the burns formed into keloids and get easily aggravated, has been left in the dark over the origin of the fire.
“They haven’t said anything and, even all through this legal matter they still haven’t come out and say—this is what happened to you and we are sorry.”
Espinoza was initially told she would be furnished with a report on the incident.
“The hospital contacted and I said I wanted an explanation. I was told I would get one and I filed all the requirements, but they never got back on to me. When I told them I wanted to be compensated because I paid my medical way, they said no, you need to get a lawyer.”
What happened that day
It was in October 2016 that Espinoza went to San Fernando General Hospital for the delivery of her baby by a Caesarean section.
“The doctor spoke to me and we went in. The person doing the spinal tap, she identified herself and she said this was the procedure. When they were ready to start the surgery, the blinds came (up). A little more than a minute into it, the doctor had already started cutting when somebody said ‘fire’. I said, Jesus, something happen to this baby. I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t raise up.
“While there was fire and chaos going on, the blinds fell. I then saw dark as my sugar level had dropped. They gave me oxygen and told me that I got some burns.”
Espinoza said her baby was safely delivered, but she remained for hours in the delivery room.
“I had to lie on my side and it took really long, a couple hours, for them to see about the burns.”
A burn specialist was contacted.
Espinoza’s husband was in the corridor while his wife of then-eight years was in the theatre. “He knew something was wrong. He saw people running outside and heard people coming out and talking about it.”
The following day, Espinoza said she was in pain. She bawled when she saw the burns.
In court documents, the SWRHA admitted there was a fire and Espinoza was burnt. However, in its defence, filed in May 2018, it said in preparation for the procedure, the method was in accordance with best practice and its staff members acted within the general skill and competence of other professional medical staff carrying out a similar procedure.
In finding the SWRHA liable for medical negligence, Justice Ricky Rahim ordered that damages and costs be assessed by a Master of the Court.
Espinoza was represented by attorneys Pavitra Ramharack and Brandon Sirju. Attorney Summer Sandy represented the SWRHA.
Espinoza said she prayed before the procedure that day, and has never questioned God over how it unfolded.
“I thank God for everything. Some people are not so fortunate. They have bad experiences and they can’t tell their stories.”