Johannesburg - She flashes a pained smile, stroking her 18-month-old daughter sitting on her lap, whose arms hold on to her waist.
Under Elsie Ramagaga’s T-shirt, her abdomen appears to be divided into three.
Ramagaga developed a bacterial infection after an operation to remove her baby’s umbilical cord, which she claims was left in her abdomen after a caesarean section.
Ramagaga, 27, from Naledi in Soweto, now uses a colostomy bag attached to the right side of her abdomen.
She accuses Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital’s doctors of gross negligence and operating on her with unsterilised utensils that caused a bacterial infection.
On December 14, 2012, Ramagaga admitted herself into the hospital because her due date was getting close.
On December 17, she went into labour. Doctors told her that the baby was too big to birth naturally and advised her to have a caesarean. That evening, Ramagaga gave birth to a healthy girl.
“The next morning, I could feel something was not right but brushed it off, thinking it was because I had just given birth. But by 7.30pm, after I had been taken to another ward, I started feeling out of breath and had a pain that felt like it was rising from my stomach to my chest,” she said.
Ramagaga said the sisters rushed her to another ward, where she was put on a drip and given oxygen. “A doctor came to check on me and told the sisters to take me to the high care unit,” she said.
The next morning, Ramagaga said, she was sent for an X-ray. “Doctors kept saying they had never seen something like this before. One doctor kept calling others to look at me. There must have been six who looked at me,” she said.
“I remember a red sticker being put on me, being rushed to theatre, and the next thing, I woke up in ICU three weeks later,” she said.
Her father Nkosiyomzi Lumku went to see her after the birth and was directed to the ICU. “I didn’t see a person. I just saw machines. When I looked at her through the door, I thought there was no way she was still there. I thought I was losing her,” he said.
Lumku said he saw his daughter on the operating bed – her abdomen had been cut open and her intestines were hanging out.
“When I asked doctors what was wrong, they just said there had been an accident and that it was minor,” he said.
A hospital record in Ramagaga’s possession, and which The Star has seen, states: “Cord found floating in abdominal cavity, uterus ruptured, baby delivered through rupture.”
Ramagaga stayed in ICU for a month and was then transferred to another ward, where she was kept for four months.
“They (doctors) said they’d keep bandaging me until the infection had cleared in my stomach. One of the new doctors treating me demanded an investigation, and according to what I was told, the people who performed the surgery to open my stomach had used unsterilised tools,” she said. They also performed a hysterectomy without her consent, she said.
After the operations, she developed spinal tuberculosis.
When The Star contacted the hospital more than a week ago, it promised to respond immediately. But public relations officer Nkosiyethu Mazibuko later called to say the hospital did not have Ramagaga’s file and appealed for the paper to hold off on the story until it got the file from her.
But despite meeting Ramagaga and reviewing her file, the hospital is yet to respond.