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Johannesburg - Little Nonhlanhla’s fingertips fell off her small hand one by one. It started with the thumb, then the ring finger, followed by the middle finger. The pinky and the index fingertips fell off last.
The girl’s mother, Precious Mjikwa, recalls how, a week after she took her newborn twins home, she felt a fingertip fall into her jacket and onto her chest.
“I was holding her, and when I looked down, my chest had some blood on it. I pulled it out and saw it was one of Nonhlanhla’s fingers. A fingertip would fall off every other day,” she said.
Mjikwa keeps her baby’s five charred-looking fingertips in a brown paper bag and cries every time she looks at them.
The 26-year-old gave birth to premature twins Nonhlanhla and Nhlanhla at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital on November 20. She was discharged a week later, but the twins stayed on at the hospital to be monitored.
“The hospital nurses said I should return to the hospital for Kangaroo Mother Care. When I went back the next week, they told me they had no space and I should come back another time,” she said.
Due to financial constraints and lack of transport in the Simunye area of Westonaria where she lives, she could not visit the children as regularly as she would have liked.
Mjikwa went back to the hospital a week later to see the children and she was told to return during visiting hours. When she returned the next day, she found several paramedics around her daughter.
Nonhlanhla’s left arm had turned black and her hand was bandaged. Mjikwa had not been told about her daughter’s condition. “I was told she had an infection and that it was not serious,” she said.
A nurse then told her to go home as the child would be taken to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital for treatment.
Mjikwa refused, and went with her daughter to the hospital.
Once the arm was checked, she was told it was not an infection, but that the drip that had been put into the baby’s arm had caused the damage. Nonhlanhla was transferred back to Rahima Moosa.
“She kept crying, and all I was given was a Panado to keep her calm,” said Mjikwa.
She said no one could give her answers, and the day after Christmas, the attending doctor pulled her aside. “They told me that they heard I would be suing them, and said to me money won’t bring my baby’s fingers back, and that I would need a strong lawyer.”
The doctor told her that accidents happened, and that her daughter’s case was not the first.
“I felt so angry, hurt and defeated because I had no idea what they were talking about.”
After the twins were discharged, Mjikwa was told to return to the hospital after three months.
Nonhlanhla’s hand was still swollen, although the rest of her arm had healed. A week later, at home, Nonhlanhla’s fingertips started falling off. “The doctor even joked and said I should put the fingers in a matchbox to show my child when she grows up,” she said.
Mjikwa returned to the hospital for treatment but said the doctors did not help with her baby’s hand.
Gauteng health spokesman Simon Zwane could not confirm what exactly had caused the baby’s fingertips to fall off.
He said Nonhlanhla had needed special attention as she was not breathing well. “The child was treated in high care. She had a drip in the hand, and nurses realised that the hand had developed a dark colour and the drip was removed.”
He said the Rahima Moosa paediatric head had said this was a medical complication sometimes seen in premature babies. “It was an unfortunate incident and the hospital has helped the child have a functional hand,” Zwane said.