In my 34 th week of pregnancy, I started to experience something out of the ordinary. I got so nauseous and was vomiting anything I dared ingest. My appetite also vanished and I could barely eat a meal. My husband decided to take me to the hospital where a scan was conducted revealing all was well with my pregnancy though I was experiencing body weakness. However, I was referred to a retired gynaecologist Dr. Ouko who was based at Neema Hospital in Kasarani.
Upon hearing my story, the doctor sent me to Lancet Laboratories for an iron test. The test results showed my iron levels were depleted. I was put on supplements and my feeding guided. I was always feeling fatigued and restless and could barely sleep. I was experiencing pressure symptoms that led to pain in some parts of the body. Dr. Ouko prescribed for a dexamethasone injection to mature the baby’s lungs in case of any eventuality seeing as my condition was fickle.
The doctor would then travel to the United Kingdom to visit his family, planning to return after 2 weeks to conduct a Caesarean section on me as I would be 37 weeks then. We went back home and I was on a strict diet of liver, amaranth, spinach and other iron rich foods as well as supplements. But even with the supplements, my fatigue levels were escalating and I could barely lift a finger once I woke up in the morning.
One night as my husband was away on night duty, I went to bed. However, I could not sleep as the baby was kicking excessively. I got up and quickly packed a hospital bag; I tried watching TV thereafter but could not concentrate so I went back and lay down giving him enough room to kick. The kicking continued into early morning but at about 5a.m. it stopped, showing the baby had slept. I waited for my husband to return from work as I did not want to alarm him. He arrived at 7a.m. to find me showered and dressed. He asked where I was going and I told him we had to go to hospital.
He wondered why yet we had agreed to wait for Dr. Ouko’s return but I told him the baby was ready to be born. He jokingly asked whether the baby had told me the same and I explained how he had kicked nonstop throughout the night. I insisted that the baby had to be born on that day even noting that it was Bob Marley’s birthday. He wanted to sleep as he had just arrived from work but I asked him to first take me to the hospital for the operation then he would return to sleep after all was done.
He surrendered and quickly got into the shower after which he had his breakfast in preparation for the long day ahead. He called a few friends to consult and was advised to take me to Upperhill for a 3D ultrasound. When we got there, I was lying on the waiting bench complaining of fatigue and the other patients excused me to be attended to first. As I lay down and the scanner put on my belly, the baby started kicking it to the sonographer’s amazement. She noted that the cord had gone around the baby’s
neck and had to be monitored if the baby would not be delivered immediately.
This revelation cemented my conviction that my baby had to be born as soon as possible. However, we were yet to identify a doctor that would stand in for Dr. Ouko who was still out of the country. We were lucky to find a Dr. Chege who directed us to the hospital where he would be working that evening.
My baby came at 36 weeks and 4 days. I moved between three hospitals in one day. I remember having undergone a caesarean section surgery for the birth of my baby and my husband being a medic insisted on having the honour to cut off the cord. I was partially conscious and aware of the happenings within my surroundings. After the baby was born, I could hear him cry but a few minutes later, I heard one of the nurses say that the baby kept forgetting to breathe.
Conscious from the spinal anaesthetic, I could feel the doctor stitching my wound but was still disturbed by the revelation that my new baby had breathing problems. My husband helped examine the baby and advised the nurse that he be put on oxygen immediately. They hoped that within 5 to 10 minutes, the baby would start breathing normally. However, a few minutes after my stitches were completed and I was being moved to the ward, I heard the doctor say that my baby had suffered respiratory distress and was only 2.7 kilos.
From there, my baby was transferred to the incubator where he stayed for some time. My husband was advised to check on me as I was experiencing pressure symptoms and had a very weak uterus. The operation revealed that my uterus was so weak that it did not need surgery but the doctor just pushed it aside with his finger. If I had stayed at home for 2 or 3 more days it would have ruptured. My husband on seeing the condition of the baby, made the call to move him to another hospital where there would be better facilities to deal with the baby’s condition.
He called for an ambulance and the baby was moved to another hospital where he was put on oxygen but showed no sign of improvement. The next morning when he came by to see me, he mentioned that the baby had posted no improvement. At this point, I insisted that I wanted to see my baby who was in a different hospital. I was eventually moved to that hospital where we spent the whole day until evening when the doctor pointed out that we needed to look for surfactant medication for the baby.
It was a Sunday and the medication proved difficult to access. The doctor said they could not handle my baby’s condition and my husband’s friends advised we move the baby to Kenyatta National Hospital for better care. This was going to be the third hospital we are moving to with a new born baby and an oxygen cylinder! Upon reaching KNH, the baby was quickly received being an emergency case as I was left behind to be assigned to a bed. It was already 8p.m. and being a public facility, finding a bed at that hour was a tall order.
There was no doctor to receive me until morning and the nurses on duty referred me to the labour ward. I waited for the porter there from 9p.m. until midnight when she came and showed me where to sleep. Just as I was preparing to sleep, I heard the other moms in the ward calling out for all to gather and go breastfeed at the nursery. As I was new, I followed along and went down the stairs with the other moms as a group to the nursery.
My baby was in the first room in the nursery dubbed the receiving room where doctor’s first conduct tests to establish what the baby is suffering from before they can begin treatment. The other moms proceeded to breastfeed and change their babies in other rooms within the nursery. The doctor told me that I would not be able to feed my baby as they were still conducting tests. I sat and waited for the other moms to finish with their babies before we returned to the ward as a group.
The same scenario played out at 3 a.m. and I could now feed my baby as he had been moved to another room where he was on antibiotics. We finished and returned to the ward where we slept till 5a.m. when we were woken by the ward prefect to shower and get ready for the day. We again breastfed the babies that morning before we went for breakfast.
At around 8a.m., I started experiencing pain as the painkillers I was on wore off. I approached the nurses for pain medication and they handed me some but I called my husband to bring me something stronger. Back at the ward, we had to move to create space for newly delivered moms and babies. At this point, I knew that my stay at the general ward would not be possible as we had been prepared to spend the night on the floor despite having a fresh CS wound.
My incensed husband sought after the hospital matron to explain why new mothers were being put through such tormenting conditions. Upon learning that he was a medic who also works for the government, the matron offered to immediately move me to the private wing where I would receive better care, albeit at a higher cost. Our insurance would cater for the added expense so we were okay with the transfer. I awaited the discharge process which was completed by afternoon and I was moved to the private wing. My doctor came in to see me and advised that I rest for at least 12 hours as the medical team cared for the baby.
However, the private wing had no ventilator so my baby would still remain at the nursery until he could breathe on his own. On the second day in the hospital, my husband visited the baby at the nursery around noon only to realise that he was not put on the ventilator. Upon enquiry, the nurse told him that they had no machine available and the baby was on the waiting list. He got upset and asked for permission to bring in a machine from where he worked that would be returned once the baby improved. The nurse turned down the offer saying the hospital’s policy would not permit such an arrangement. But as I went to check on the baby around 3p.m.,
I was surprised to find 4 new machines in the nursery, with one connected to my baby. He stayed on the ventilator for 24 hours after which he stabilized and was moved closer to me at the private wing. Nonetheless the movement across hospitals among other things had contributed to him contracting infections. He was put on Gentamycin and later on Meronem but the response was not good. I even had to stop breastfeeding and could only change his diapers as we waited for his condition to improve.
Visitors who came by could not see the baby as the nurses advised that we give them time to care for him to regain health. The baby had suffered jaundice and had to undergo phototherapy to correct his bilirubin levels. He also underwent a blood transfusion due to his low blood count that was denying oxygen flow to some vital organs.
Miraculously 2 weeks later, he began showing improvement and started breastfeeding minimally. He had been fed by tube for about a week and had lost weight to about 1.8kilos, despite getting to KNH weighing 2.5kilos. However, the nurses avoided telling me his exact weight as they were advised by my doctor who was working hard to ensure I do not suffer depression.
On the second week after the baby started breastfeeding, I went to feed him and the baby refused completely. I called the nurse who realised that the baby had slipped back into distress. This was emotionally draining and I remember going back to my room where I sobbed to God. I asked God why He wanted to take my baby away after
showing me initially that he was healed.
The doctor came to me and encouraged me not to cry as the baby would read my emotions which would have a negative impact on his performance. I went back to the nursery and met a nurse who calmed me down saying preemies experience ups and downs at the nursery which was very normal. She urged me to be strong for the baby and avoid stresses which may lower my milk production. I used to express milk and store for him in the freezer. My baby had only cried the first day after he was born and all of a sudden he started crying.
The nurse encouraged me that this was a sign that his medication was working and he was showing improvement. Three days later, I was allowed to breastfeed albeit while being monitored. The feeding was minimal so as to avoid bouts of reflux as the baby’s condition was still volatile. We started with 5ml but by the end of that week, he was feeding from a cup. The doctor had put the baby on injections saying he would only be placed on orals after discharge. All this while, I was suffering from a septic wound that was triggered by all the movement across hospitals. My doctor came in to perform a minor surgery and drain the pus that had piled up to prevent further infections.
On the last day before the baby was discharged, the doctor conducted a mouth surgery on him as he had a tongue tie. We were discharged with instructions to avoid visitors at home for at least 2 months. We are now at 8 months and so far no complications have cropped up. We only attend neonatal clinics and he experiences minor colds sometimes.