'I don't know how I made it out alive.' A woman shares her Rahima Moosa Hospital experience

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  • Mathapelo Mokwena was due to give birth as she reached her 40 weeks mark.
  • Before giving birth, she was forced to sign suspicious-looking organ donation papers. 
  • This made her fear for her life while she birthed her daughter.

Mathapelo Mokwena* takes a deep breath in and exhales. She takes another deep breath as she waits for an ambulance to pick her up and take her to a hospital.

Mokwena is at a clinic on the West Rand. She was not feeling well that morning and was due to give birth at any moment.

She is over 40 weeks pregnant, and the midwife at the clinic tells her that her blood pressure is high and she needs to be referred to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Coronationville, Johannesburg.

READ | Open letter from Gauteng doctor to health dept: 'How do you sleep at night?'

Three hours later, an ambulance finally arrives and transports her to the hospital. Nothing can, however, prepare her for what she witnesses as she approaches the hospital doors.

"It was chaos," she tells Health24. "There were so many people. There was a woman who came in and told them that she was in labour. She had the urge to push and gave birth right there at the door. In my mind, I started having fears about being there," she remembers.

Mokwena was admitted to treat her high blood pressure. This was in April 2019. Mokwena, who was 25, was going through her first pregnancy.

No letterhead or signature

A week and a half after arriving at the hospital, Mokwena's water broke.

"We need to get you into the theatre for an emergency C-section. Your baby's heart rate is dropping," she is told by a nurse. The nurse prepared and dressed her for the procedure.

However, before being wheeled into the theatre, Mokwena says she was handed a paper by the nurse with no letterhead or signature.

"The paper stated that should I die during the C-section, I volunteer to donate my heart," she says.

"This didn't sound right. I may not know much, but I knew that there are processes that had to take place before I could agree to this. There should be legal work, and my family should know about this. Shouldn't donating your organs be a voluntary thing? Why did it feel like I was being pushed to do it?"

Fearing for her life

Mokwena says she told the nurse that she did not want to sign the paper.

"Well, if you don't sign the paper, we won't be able to help you give birth," she said. She says she signed the paper in fear that she wouldn't get the help she needed.

While Mokwena was giving birth to a baby girl, she feared for her life.

"When they took the baby out, I saw that my baby was okay. But that's when I started panicking. I told the nurse I could see that my baby was fine, but was I going to be fine?"

She didn't remember what happened after that. When she woke up, she was in the recovery room.

She tells Health24 that she recalls certain of the nurse's features.

After birth

In the post-birth ward, Mokwena asked other patients if they also received a paper stating they would donate their hearts should they die.

She was, however, stopped by the nurses and told to stop asking other patients this question.

"I told her you guys gave me this piece of paper at the last minute. I want to understand why my heart should be donated should I die during the C-section. I was here for a week and a half. You could then have given me this paper to read," she says.

Reflecting on her pre-birth stay, Mokwena remembers the day she felt singled out.

No need for a C-section

"They would usually take blood from everyone in the ward for tests. But one day, they only took my blood work. It was strange because they usually take blood work from everyone," she says.

Mokwena consulted a private gynaecologist after giving birth to get clarity on whether what happened to her was normal. Her doctor told her that she could have given birth naturally and that there was probably no need for her to have a C-section. He also told her that organ donation does not work in the manner she experienced.

"The doctor said that the organ black market is quite big, and he suspects that this could have been the reason," she says.

She continued: "I still need answers for what happened. I'm sure other people have experienced this. I think they also took advantage of the fact that I was all on my own. I don't know how I made it out alive. It's only through God's grace that I'm still here."

The health department's response

Health24 reached out to the Gauteng Department of Health to find out if they have received similar reports.

"Rahima Moosa Mother and Child hospital does not deal with any organ transplant or organ donation services.

"The hospital has not come across any reports of people being forced to donate or sign under duress as the services are not rendered at the institution. Patients who have concerns or are unsure about services offered in healthcare facilities are advised to interact with quality assurance offices in facilities.

"If patients or their families are aware of any criminal activity, they are encouraged to report to law enforcement authorities," said Kwara Kekana, the MEC of Heath's spokesperson.

The department said that more details were needed, and it would reach out to Mokwena in order to investigate further.

*Not her real name

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