Pretoria - The sight of a nurse yanking his baby out of its mother’s womb, and carrying him upside down across the parking lot and through the hospital door will haunt Mabopane father France Mkhize forever.
The screams of pain from his girlfriend, who, thankfully, does not remember the incident, still traumatise him.
“Watching her carry him (the baby) like that broke my heart, especially because he was still alive,” Mkhize said. He was later to see the boy as he lay in the hospital’s emergency room after midnight, with the same nurse constantly covering his face with what was probably an oxygen mask.
Mkhize does not know whether the newborn was alive at the time. “The nurse shouted at me that we were to blame for his condition because we’d come to hospital late.”
Mkhize asked if she could save him, but she told him she was not in the business of saving lives.
“She told me that was God’s duty, not hers,” he said.
Mkhize’s horror story started a few hours before when he arrived at Mabopane’s Odi Community Hospital, with pregnant girlfriend Pinky Maumela. “I was very excited when she called me to say she was in labour just after 10pm. I immediately rushed to take her to hospital.”
Security at the hospital gate quickly let them in and directed them to the emergency section. There Mkhize knocked on the window and door, calling out for help.
“The angry voice of a woman asked why I was making so much noise. When she eventually opened the door she started asking me about Pinky’s history. I begged her to come to the car with me and ask questions later.”
The nurse got angry and told Mkhize not to tell her how to do her job, saying the couple should have come earlier instead of expecting them (staff) to run around.
She closed the door after instructing him to ask security to direct him to another entrance. As they drove off to the other entrance they were called back by the nurses, who argued for a short while after noticing that the baby’s feet and half his torso were already out. They debated whether the mother should be taken inside or assisted right there. That was when the nurse put on gloves, grabbed the baby by his lower body and pulled him out.
The horrified father watched the nurse dangle his baby and march inside with him. “I was worried about Pinky, who was half conscious, so I turned back to her and helped her into the hospital.”
Inside the mother regained consciousness and asked for her baby. “They told me he was with the doctor. While they removed the placenta they shouted at me that I had acted irresponsibly by coming to the hospital late.”
Maumela had been at the hospital for an antenatal check-up three days earlier. The sonar had not shown the baby being in a breech position, she said. The two nurses agreed to write in their report that they had delayed going out to assist the mother because they thought it was thugs knocking on the window, she added.
“The doctor came out and asked them to stop traumatising me. He explained that my baby had died after his umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck.”
She said the months of nurturing her unborn baby, and the dreams of holding him in her arms were shattered. She was also weak and in a lot of pain, but nothing prepared her for the next two days.
“I was taken to a ward of expectant women and mothers with newborns, and I struggled to cope.”
The nurses gave her sedatives, which saved her the emotional and physical pain of watching other women breastfeeding their babies.
She was discharged on Monday after meeting a therapist. Tuesday was particularly emotional, because it was her 23rd birthday, and she had buried her baby in the morning. “I feel numb,” she said.
Her mother has been her pillar of strength, but Maumela said she didn’t know if she could get over it.
Mkhize laid a complaint with the hospital’s quality assurance office, and was promised a response within 12 days from Monday.
Provincial Health Department spokesman Simon Zwane said the nurses admitted they had locked the doors for security reasons. “They found Ms Maumela was already delivering. The baby was in a breech position but the head and neck were stuck in the perineum.”
The midwives delivered immediately, but the baby showed no signs of life, he said. “The doctor also arrived, and after an examination he pronounced the baby dead.”
Zwane said the claims of abuse and being turned away would be investigated, and the results communicated to the parents.