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A young mother’s agonising experience at the hands of hospital staff, who refused to let her give birth by way of a caesarean section, a doctor who pushed back the emerging baby’s head into her uterus when it became imperative she needed a caesarean section, and the sight of her subsequently stillborn son afterwards, resulted in a R1.4 million damages claim against the Gauteng MEC for Health.
The Pretoria High Court ordered that the mother – not identified for humane reasons – had to receive R560 500 in damages from the MEC, while her husband would receive R115 000.
The Monument Park woman was 23 when on March 1, 2009, her first child was stillborn.
She is now in such a state of depression various experts recommended to the court she should immediately be placed in a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
The court heard she was suicidal and her last suicide attempt was on March 1 – exactly three years after her son was stillborn.
To make matters worse, her wound due to the caesarean section became septic and she had to receive further treatment.
Her ordeal started when she was admitted to the Kalafong Hospital, west of Pretoria, to deliver her baby, which was still healthy at that time.
She went into labour during the night and remained in labour for hours.
It became apparent she could not deliver the baby normally.
The woman eventually “begged” the nursing staff for a caesarean section to be performed, but she was instructed to wait for another two hours.
By this time the baby’s head was already appearing above the pelvic brim.
When it became obvious she could not deliver the baby, a caesarean section was performed more than six hours later.
It was stated in court papers that “during the caesarean section, it was revealed that the foetal head had impacted deep into her uterus, thus necessitating its disimpaction from below”.
The unborn child was subsequently by force pushed from below, by using direct pressure on its head “so as to dislodge it from its position (back) into her uterus”.
The compression and decompression of the unborn child’s head – when it was “pushed up” – led to intracranial bleeding, which caused the unborn baby’s death.
It was stated the woman experienced extreme emotional trauma in the theatre.
She remembers the medical staff gathering around the baby’s body, which had been placed on a steel surface.
They then brought the baby’s body to her, but she could not get herself to hold the lifeless body.
The court was told: “The image of the pale dead body, marked with contusions, and lying unnaturally and motionless on the steel surface, was ingrained in her memory.”
A psychologist said the woman experiences flashbacks of the bruised body “every day of her life while she is awake”.
She blames herself for “not being equipped with adequate pelvic space.
“She is constantly tired and listless and stays in bed for hours on end during the day.”
She suffers from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
A medical expert said she was “seriously ill and urgently needs psychiatric treatment”.
The psychiatrists also agreed her husband needed urgent help to cope with his son being stillborn and his wife’s depressive disorder.
The hospital initially denied liability or any wrongdoing, but later accepted the baby was stillborn due to the staff’s negligence.