Cyprian Is Nyakundi

The Dark Side Of Maternal Healthcare In Kenya: Mother narrates how negligence during childbirth led her to three painful surgeries

Teddy Munene
Kenyan blogger writing on politics, governance, and social media.

As narrated on Twitter by Chantelle Petit.

I gave birth on the 1st of January 2019 to a beautiful baby girl completely unaware of what the following days had in store for us both. Both Boo Boo and I had complications for a whole month.

Labour started early that day. The contractions woke me up. When I went to the loo to pee, I saw brown, slimy discharge after wiping myself. This didn’t look right. I remember my gynae told me if I see anything different, I should know I’m in labour.

My gut knew I was. Upon arrival at the hospital, I found out that my gynae was on leave because his daughter had an accident. The only doctors available were the 2 on-call in-house gynaes.

They initially wanted to take me to the ER to examine me and see whether I’m in labour but I refused because I KNEW I was in labour and I didn’t want to waste any time. We argued a bit with the receptionist until she realized I was indeed in labour.

She instructed the guy who was pushing the wheelchair to take me to the maternity ward, 6th floor. He wheeled me into the delivery room & helped me onto the bed. I waited a few minutes before I got examined.

The Dr came & examined my vagina & cervix to see how far I had dilated. How do they do this you ask? They put their fingers in the vagina (with gloves) & depending on how many fingers can fit, they get an estimate of how many cms a woman has dilated.

So it was 11:30am/12pm when the doctor examined me. When he removed his hand, the glove was FULL of the brown discharge I mentioned above. Dripping with a bit of blood. The guy looked at me and told me my baby had pooped and was in distress.

He told me that I had to do an emergency CS because she was in distress. Her heartbeat was there (a bit low) and she was moving but she had pooped. He told my family to pay the deposit and open my in-patient file so that I could be booked for theatre.

Now for some reason on that day there were SO MANY women who had come to give birth at the same time. I overheard the doctors saying there were about 80, 20 had their own doctors. About 60 women had come to have their babies delivered by 2 doctors.

My deposit was paid and file opened about an hour and a half later. We paid for a CS. The doctor told us that there were only 2 theatres available that day and the only time I could get my CS done was 5.30 p.m. 5.5 hours after being declared an emergency.

Hindsight is always 20-20 guys. Days later another Dr told me it is my right as a patient to ask to be transferred if the hospital can’t perform it’s duty with immediate effect.

Had I known my rights, I would’ve asked the Dr to transfer me to the nearest hospital the minute he said the words “no theatre available at the moment.” Anyway, back to the 1st. So the waiting process began. I labourrred, contractions are from hell!

The pain was unbearable. I begged for an epidural countless times but I couldn’t get one. My family took turns comforting me in the delivery room until my sister who volunteered to be in the room with me arrived.

I sat on that bed, getting contractions every 5 mins for 1 hour. The doctor kept coming to stick his fingers in my vagina to check dilation. It reached a point I started feeling pain so I asked him not to because of pain. He stormed off & shouted at my fam.

Deep down I was extremely scared of getting a CS. I remember I told my mom to pray so that I deliver naturally. I was SCARED of going under the knife, but I said whatever will be will be.

It got to a point during my labour process where I was all alone in the room with my sister. This as around 2 o’clock… The contractions were a minute apart. I remember begging one of the nurses to call the doctor and she wasn’t taking me seriously.

She would walk in and out & just smile at me saying I’m ok. Deep down I knew I wasn’t. I felt like I wanted to push. I could feel my baby’s head in my vagina. It feels very strange.

My contractions were now continuous. My sister ended up pleading with the nurse who in turn went and called the doctor. He came and examined me, found I was 9 CM dilated. This was good news for me, it meant I didn’t have to go under the knife.

They left me again. I was like ? WHY????? The doctor told me that I wasn’t there yet. I could still feel my baby’s head in my vagina. It felt like she was pushing herself out. It was painful & uncomfortable but they weren’t listening to me.

Finally one of the nurses came and said that she could see my baby’s hair. She called the doctor and he found that I was 10 CM dilated. They then told me that it was time to push. I was fully dilated by around 2:30 p.m.

Natural labour just happens. It’s effort between you and your baby. Baby pushes and you push. I pushed from 2.30 to 3.25 p.m. I cant explain it but you just get the urge to puuuush! It’s natural. So a nurse delivered my baby, she gave me an episiotomy.

An episiotomy is when they cut the vagina to create more room for the baby. This is stitched up after the birth process is done. So, I’m still not ready to talk about what happened to my baby. It still hurts to date ? so I’ll skip that for now.

My baby was born 2.6kgs, I was FULLY dilated at 10 CM when I pushed her out. Keep these figures in mind for this next section of the story.

When she came out, I instructed my sis to go check on what they were doing to her. I told her I’ll be fine. Mind you at this point I was so low on energy, I was seeing stars because I hadn’t eaten.

I asked the doctor if it was possible to be put to sleep while they stitched my episiotomy because I didn’t want to see them do it or feel pain. He said it’s possible. The anaesthesiologist came & did his thing. I blacked out slowly.

I remember feeling like the room was spinning REALLY FAST! I kept coming in and out of consciousness asking them if my baby is okay and they kept saying “She’s fine”. I blacked out. This was the 1st time I got a taste of the “light at the end of the tunnel”.

I explained this “light at the end of the tunnel” experience on my insta a few weeks ago….

So they did the procedure… or so I thought and left me on the delivery bed for 3 hours with my leg in the air, blood pouring everywhere and the window was open. I could feel a cold breeze down there while I was out.

I eventually woke up, my leg was numb. I asked the nurse to call someone to untie my leg. She came maybe 20 mins later. They then told my family I was awake. I did not know why my family members had this shocked look on their faces.

There was blood everywhere! My placenta was still there in a corner exposed for everyone to see. I thought the whole thing was successful and that I’d go home in a few days only for a 3rd gynae to walk in and tell me they “found” a 3rd degree tear.

The gentlemen handed me over to a female gynae who scheduled me for surgery the following day with a tear specialist to stitch the 3rd degree tear and episiotomy because the other dudes weren’t able to stitch anything smh.

I got wheeled to my room at 7.30 p.m. Long ass day and now I was supposed to prepare myself mentally for surgery. I’ve never done surgery in my life until this year. So it was scary. I didn’t know what to expect.

My surgery was scheduled for 10 a.m. I went in at around 3pm. The procedure was 45 mins long. I was forced to walk the day after surgery to avoid blood clots without support. I couldn’t feel my thighs but there was a sharp pain.

I complained about, the response each time is I wasn’t rinsing the poop off the wound properly. My baby was in the new born unit and they pressured me to go there, sit and pump milk for hours. I couldn’t sit, they didn’t care. They told me I was exaggerating.

Mom guilt was setting in. They made me feel like a horrible mom because I wasn’t able to produce enough milk. Also, this gynae who left me alone kept telling me not to pump milk because “I might give my baby sepsis again” which apparently isn’t possible.

So I didn’t feed my baby my milk for 4 days because there was confusion as to whether I can give her my milk. Turns out I could, breastmilk doesn’t carry illness… when confronted, the doctor denied telling me not to pump.

I remember I slept 8 hours total that week. I was tired! That NBU had become my life. Walking in and out of my room to go sit at the NBU to take care of my baby. When I’d ask the nurses to assist me when unwell, they’d respond like I was bothering them.

So I had no choice but to spend majority of my days in the NBU. 3 days after surgery, they came to discharge me without checking my wound to see if I’m healing properly. I complained about the pain again, response “Just clean the wound well with the shower”

I insisted that the pain wasn’t normal. NOTHING. They pressed my boobs to see if they were too full then discharged me despite my concerns. I wasn’t comfy leaving my baby alone at that hospital so I took the option of staying as a lodger. THANK GOD I DID!

One day as I was in my room during lunch, I went to pee. When I removed my panty, I found grains and lumps on my pad. I though it was normal but my gut told me I had to ask. Luckily I bumped into the nurse who delivered my boo on the way back.

She seemed shocked and told me to wait for the lady gynae who the dudes handed me over to. The one who discharged me. She examined me and my soul wasn’t ready for the words that came out of her mouth, “My dear, it looks like you have fistula”.

My heart dropped all the way from 6th floor to the basement. The tears just poured out uncontrollably. I asked her what that meant. She said it meant another surgery.

Turns out the grains & lumps were poop. I had poop coming out of my vagina. I didn’t understand how this was possible. I was CONFUSED, sad, shocked & in denial. Felt like I was going nuts.

We hadn’t even finished the 2nd week of the month and all that happened.

So the kind of fistula I had is called Recto-Vaginal Fistula (RVF). That’s when there’s a hole that links the vagina and rectum allowing gas and poop to pass through each time.

This resulted from a backfired 3rd degree tear surgery. 3rd degree tear description as seen below. My tear went all the way from my sphincter to the inside of my vag. My perinium was damaged as well. Basically, you DON’T want to get a 3rd/4th degree tear.

Passing stool after tear surgery is torture guys. You know that kind that makes you wonder why you’re alive? I used to spend 2 hours in the loo passing stool as big as a 40 bob coin. Felt like childbirth all over again but 100 times more painful.

Yaani, imagine pressing on a kidonda after falling and rubbing superbrite on it over and over again.

So that was my life for a few days after the 2nd surgery. I HATED the toilet. I think I have toilet PTSD.

How I got the fistula? Remember I said I was being pressured to go to the NBU all the time to take care of my baby? Sitting on those hard chairs for long, pumping milk. My stitches ripped. That was the day I complained about sever pain but no one listened

How did they rip? In a scissor like motion. The stitches cut through my flesh kama makasi. So inside this fistula hole, I had hundreds of tiny little tears. It looked scary ?

I couldn’t believe that was my body.

So now I’ve been told about my 3rd surgery. At this point I’m skeptical af. I stopped trusting these peeps. I quickly asked for the name of the surgeon they wanted to bring in and went and got a 2nd opinion from a private gynae that everyone recommended.

This gynae told me some fistulas heal on their own but if mine is big I’ll have to do the surgery. He examined me and told me I had a 4 CM fistula that was big enough to allow his fingers to move back and forth in the hole. I had to do surgery ?

My first thought was HOW WILL I PAY FOR THIS? I went to that hospital knowing I’d spend max 120k. My baby’s bill on that day was 300k, mine was 180k. I didn’t have insurance, there’s a 12 month waiting period so they couldn’t cover this pregnancy.

Bruh, depression is SO REAL! I have never cried so much in my life. Worrying about healing, pain, my baby’s health and a bill I hadn’t planned for. There was a day I wanted to end it all ? then I called PPD Kenya they talked me through it.

Anyway so this 2nd opinion gynae told me the surgeon they were bringing in is the best in Africa with it comes to fistula repair surgery. He told ne to go ahead and not to miss the opportunity.

He’s a very honourable, kind, dedicated surgeon.

My 3rd surgery day, 16th Jan. I was scared. Had to prepare myself mentally for these new poop sessions. The initial plan was: undo the 2nd surgery stitches, clean my wound and leave my ass and vagina connected. For 2 weeks. Diapers were supposed to be my life.

But I asked my surgeon to find a way that will ensure I don’t have to use diapers especially since I had to take care of my baby. He listened and found a way. This guy restored my faith in the medical industry. I wish they could clone him.

Back to the day I got the 2nd opinion. My fam took me out for lunch at Java, had my 1st non hospital meal. Refreshing. Didn’t know the hell I’d experience when I went back to the hospital. The thing about a birth injury like mine is you get incontinence.

I.e. the inability to control poop. This day was the first day I passed a huge piece of shit through my vagina. I couldn’t control it. I was SCREAMING my sister started crying with me. That toilet felt like a big black hole ?. Yaani all this happened because there were no theatres available.

My baby and I almost died because there was no theatre available.

As I type I’m getting angry and emotional. Not just for myself but every other mom who has been through trauma.

Anyway they did the 3rd surgery. Stitched my rectum so that poop stops going through my vagina. My surgeon told me he expected some stitches to backfire because at this point my vagina flesh was so bad. He said it looked like cake icing ?

He told me it shouldn’t worry me & left strict instructions with the nurses. He used to come and review me every day w/his partner. Something these other doctors never did ?

I saw a different side of the medical industry after being handed over to him.

Basically, if you want PROPER, PERFECT healthcare, GET A PRIVATE DOCTOR.

It’s expensive for sure and so unfortunate that this is the only way to get proper treatment in this country ?

My gosh I don’t know how I forgot this. I have to tell my sisters. The pressure they give you to produce milk is on a level on its own. My body was sooo tired and in so much pain, I could only produce 20 ML per pump.

There was a day I got really depressed, felt like the most pathetic mom on earth. The nurses were shouting at me and pressuring me to breastfeed. I didn’t know how to, I’m a ftm. My nipple kept going back in so it was hard for my baby to latch.

These guys went & got a syringe to “pull” my nipples out. That shit is PAINFUL! As if my body hadn’t gone through enough, they wanted to pull my nipples each time they went back in to get a proper latch. That night, they pulled my left nipple 6 times

My left nipple cracked and bled a bit. I was crying in that NBU I think I woke two babies up. Obviously the following day my boobs refused to function. The pain was unbearable the breast pump felt like torture. So I just slept all day.

To be continued…

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