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Pretoria - At first Marco Brits did not realise that the object falling from his fiancée’s body was his baby as he watched it bounce on the floor, in the process severing the umbilical and spurting blood, just minutes after the attending doctor had told them the baby was not due soon.
The look of horror on Janine Meiring’s face confirmed his worst fear, the surreal moment broken when the doctor asked if she would pick her baby up, both parents swinging into action in an attempt to save the newborn baby’s life.
“She picked the baby up and ran down the corridors, screaming at the top of her voice and shouting for someone to save our little boy,” said Brits.
Brits followed his fiancée and the trail of blood she left between the sonar room and Khalafong Hospital’s maternity ward, running up the corridor they had painstakingly walked down minutes before with Meiring, then in labour, begging that they allow her to give birth to her baby.
The couple’s horrifying Christmas Eve ordeal began barely an hour before, just after 10pm, when they arrived at the Pretoria West Hospital, Meiring, 27 weeks pregnant, already in labour.
After being refused a wheelchair and Brits being told he could not proceed past security, she walked in and through to maternity with the help of strangers, where she was told there was no bed.
“I was experiencing ‘push pain’, so I begged for a blanket to lie down on and have the baby, but they told me to wait,” the distraught mother told the Pretoria News on Monday.
Another patient, also in labour, gave up her bed, and after an external examination the doctor on duty told her the baby was too small to be born, and told her to go to the sonar room.
Struggling to walk because she was in a lot of pain, Meiring asked that Brits be allowed to help her walk, and the doctor performed the scan. He told her the baby was not coming, and as she got up the contractions hit her: “I felt my baby’s head in my hand, and when I lifted my dress to show him, he (the doctor) hit my hand and told me to remove my fingers from there,” she said.
“My baby slid out and I saw him bounce and the umbilical cord snapped,” and as the doctor asked her if she would pick him up her instincts kicked in and she scooped him into her arms and ran to the maternity ward, where a nurse took him and tied the cord, wrapped him up and disappeared with him.
The doctor reappeared to remove the placenta, after which the mother was left alone, in the bloodied dress and bedclothes, until Brits came in and cleaned her up.
He had seen the baby they named Donavan as a medical team attended to him, putting him on oxygen and drips, placing him in an incubator and on a ventilator.
“A paediatrician came into my room, initially to tell me that my baby was critical and in intensive care, and then later to say he had died,” Meiring said.
“What hurts the most is that when the MEC for health came in to see Christmas babies the following day there were wheelchairs all over, and when I asked to speak with him they refused.”
The South African Medical Association on Monday condemned the lack of basic care shown to the expectant mother, with spokesman Dr Mzukisi Grootboom saying a full-scale investigation had to be done by the department to find out exactly what happened.
He said: “If anyone is found wanting for behaviour and non-functionality heads must roll. Those involved need to be reported to the statutory authority body so we can protect the public from this ever happening again.”
Grootboom said an investigation into her claims, both of being in pain and labour, should have been made, the basic duty of staff being to save the mother and baby.
Brits said he was angry with the doctor: “We must live the rest of our lives with the horror of what happened, and live every Christmas with the memory of our dead son.”
The Department of Health said an investigation had been launched. Spokesman Simon Zwane said a team from Quality Assurance would interview staff implicated on Wednesday, about a month after the incident took place.
He said: “This is to determine if there was any clinical or professional negligence in the management of Ms Meiring during labour.”
The matter would be referred to the Health Professions Council of SA for further investigation, he said.