Johannesburg - “I thought she was dead. She was just lying there, not moving, not crying.”
So said Valencia Ephraim as she recounted her harrowing birthing experience at the Discovery Community Centre in Roodepoort, west of Joburg.
“Please don’t make such a noise, there are other people in this ward. Stop screaming! Get off that bed, you’ll (crease) it. It’s not your time (to give birth) yet,” the nurses shouted at her, instructing her to bear the labour pains as it wasn’t the first time she had given birth.
As Ephraim stood up to walk around, as instructed by the “rude” nurses, she began vomiting, and started to feel the baby coming out.
“I told my mom to help me back onto the bed as I wasn’t feeling well,” said Ephraim.
As she lifted her leg to get on the bed, the baby popped out and fell on to the hard floor.
“My mother ran out (of the ward) screaming hysterically and I just stood there… the umbilical cord was still hanging (attached) and I could see blood dripping out. The baby was not even crying… (there was) no movement. I was paralysed by shock… I just stood there,” said the 29-year-old woman.
But the nurses who responded to her mother’s cries blamed her.
“It’s your fault. Why did you push when it wasn’t your time (to deliver)? You were 3cm (dilated),” she was allegedly told.
But Ephraim insists she never pushed and the nurses who scolded her later told her that “(her) facial expression was not that of a person in pain”.
The matron then got involved and they quickly assessed the infant, finding that she had bumped her head. They rushed the newborn to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child hospital in Coronationville.
But Ephraim had to arrange her own transport, so she had to wait for an hour for her husband to drive from work to Roodepoort.
“They didn’t even give me painkillers. They are women, they should know how painful it (labour) is. When I got to Rahima Moosa, I was so pale and weak. Nurses there gave me glucose and painkillers,” she said.
The baby was admitted overnight for observation, and Ephraim was told she could not stay.
“I walked out of here last night (Tuesday) not knowing if I’ll find the child the next day. I had nightmares (overnight) and I woke up every hour crying and checking my phone… expecting bad news. I was so stressed I couldn’t even express milk (before leaving the baby).
“It’s painful for any woman to leave a baby in hospital. (You wonder) is the baby going to be fine?” Ephraim said.
When she got home, she then had to explain to her three other children why she had not brought along their baby sister.
Two years ago, the same thing happened during her son’s birth.
“I was screaming in the waiting room and they (nurses) said they’ll come. My husband had to go call them and when they got there the baby was (already) on the floor,” said Ephraim.
Her son also bumped his head but is now fine, she said.
Further tests were expected to be conducted on her baby, named Xelene. Doctors at Rahima Moosa have discovered two bumps on her head and said while the baby was fine, there was some clotting beneath those bumps. She was discharged on Wednesday.
The doctors told Ephraim that it was impossible for a woman to dilate from 3cm to 10cm in just an hour.
“So this means those nurses can’t even conduct tests properly. They said 3cm instead of 7cm,” she said.
Ephraim’s mother, Pearl Stevenson said the incident left both of them traumatised. “I thought we’ve lost the baby. I went crazy. I couldn’t even pick up the baby. I was just screaming. We went there with that fear because of that incident (with the grandson). I went with her to make sure she had a smooth delivery and this happens,” she said.
The family are considering legal action.
Gauteng Health Department spokesman Prince Hamnca said: “There’s an inquiry around that (the delivery and nurses’ treatment at the centre). We don’t have the facts yet so we’ll try to establish the facts. We’ve sent our quality assurance team to investigate the matter.”