Mom had to keep dead baby

2008-06-29 00:00

A Sweetwaters woman had to carry a dead baby for over two weeks — and later died several weeks after the baby was removed by Caesarean section.

Family members believe Edendale Hospital contributed to the death of 24-year-old Nozipho Makhaye.

Makhaye died five weeks after the operation to remove the dead baby she carried for 17 days, having complained of a headache and flu-like symptoms.

Bonisiwe Sikhakhane said her cousin was treated at the Mpumuza clinic throughout her pregnancy, but went to Edendale when her baby stopped moving.

At Edendale Hospital, she was told that the baby had died.

However, before the dead baby could be removed, she had to wait until she either went into labour or until her May 12 due date.

“When she came home and delivered the news, we were all shocked. We had never heard of anything like it before. How do you live with something dead inside you?” said Sikhakhane.

Sikhakhane’s older brother, Nathi, sought the advice of others, who told him this was unacceptable and advised him to take the issue up with the hospital.

He spoke to a hospital official, whose name is known to The Witness.

“He told me that her blood was not right and she could not be operated on, but later said that the hospital does not have qualified doctors. He said we needed to decide if we wanted to take the risk of her being operated on by interns.”

Sikhakhane said on this advice, they decided to wait.

Makhaye had the operation on May 12 and released a day later.

“She appeared fine. But I noticed that she had this terrible smell coming from her. I thought she was not bathing properly. But now I realise you can’t have a dead baby inside you for two weeks and be fine.

“The hospital definitely contributed to her death. She was stressed by the fact that the baby had died. They were negligent,” said Sikhakhane.

However, Edendale Hospital public relations officer Samke Mncube said Makhaye had other medical conditions and that her death was not related to her carrying the dead baby.

Mncube said one of the options for a maternity patient carrying an intra-uterine death (dead baby) is to await spontaneous onset of labour, to avoid surgical intervention.

“In Nozipho’s case, she had previously had a Caesarean section and also other medical conditions. It was in her best interest to avoid surgical intervention … she did not manifest any complications resulting from the intra-uterine death.”

The hospital claims to have raised these concerns with Makhaye’s husband, but her family said this could not have been so, as she was not married. “They told me the main reason for her not being operated on was because there were no doctors.”

A Netcare gynaecologist operating in Umhlanga, who preferred to remain anonymous because he did not have all the medical facts, said carrying a dead baby does not necessarily cause health problems.

However, he said that carrying the baby after term could result in a clotting defect that may lead to death if not corrected before surgery, as the patient could die during or after the procedure due to uncontrollable bleeding.

He said in early pregnancy, labour can be difficult, which is why the hospital might have encouraged the wait.

He agreed a Caesarean section was not a good idea for someone who has never had the operation, but since she had already had one, he did not see why they couldn’t operate.

He added the issue of the patient having problems with her blood, as experienced by Makhaye, was not reason enough for not operating.

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