A Soshanguve family is still reeling in shock, anger and frustration after the death of 70-year-old Paulos Vilakazi. He died a few days after being discharged from Kalafong Hospital and being rushed back the following day with a gaping wound and intestines which had fallen out on to his bed.
Doctors at the hospital have refused to explain why the old man was discharged from the hospital with a septic wound, and they dismissed the family when they asked for an explanation, Vilakazi’s brother-in-law, Tony Baloyi, said on Monday.
“When we told them of our decision to get an independent pathologist to conduct a post-mortem they told us to take the corpse from the hospital morgue and fill the death certificate in ourselves,” Baloyi said.
Grieving widow Hazel Vilakazi said: “He would have died at some point, he was sick and old, but that he should have died of neglect and a lack of compassion from hospital staff bring me so much grief.”
The elderly man died last Wednesday, four days after the wound from his colostomy opened and his intestines popped out while at his home in Soshanguve.
He had been discharged from Kalafong the previous Friday, just more than a week after surgery to remove a cancerous part of his colon.
Two days before being discharged, he fell while on an unassisted trip to the bathroom. He was forced to crawl back into the ward and was helped on to his bed by other patients because a nurse, who had promised to get other nurses to help him up, had not come back.
“He was in a lot of pain when I got there that evening. But more than the physical pain was the feeling of desolation after being left to lie on the cold floor alone with the nurse not returning with help and the effort of crawling back to his bed in that state,” his wife said.
The family had reported the incident to the sister in charge. She had in turn asked the nurses on duty why they hadn’t assisted Vilakazi or reported the fall to the doctor. Hazel was in the meeting with them.
“The sister in charge asked them why they didn’t report the incident so that Vilakazi could be examined, scanned and X-rayed to check for other injuries from the fall. All they did was apologise.”
Two days later, Vilakazi was discharged, after a nurse had examined him and exposed the septic wound on his abdomen, which the family witnessed.
On the discharge sheet (which the Pretoria News has seen) the sister wrote that the wound was “oozing” pus, but said he should go home.
The following morning Hazel removed the dressing to clean the wound as she had been instructed, to find that it was open. She could see his intestines.
It was a scary sight, she said. “By the time my children came into the room the intestines were on his side on the bed.”
An ambulance was called. Her husband was taken to the nearby Dr George Mukhari Hospital, where he was cleaned up, surgical tape was put over the protruding insides and then he was taken back to Kalafong. There a team of doctors, contacted by Dr George Mukhari Hospital, waited for him.
“They immediately attended to him, putting him on drips, giving him blood. They stopped short of taking him into the theatre because he was very low on sodium,” said Baloyi.
By Monday, he seemed much better, but he never recovered from the fall and travelling back home by public transport before he was well enough to do so, his widow said.
She was told he had sepsis and was due back in theatre on Thursday to check how far the infection had gone and when they could try to close the wound, she had been told. He died on Wednesday morning. When his wife saw him that morning he did not look good.
“He insisted he was fine, but he looked tired because of the pain, being in hospital and the medication. He said he wanted to come back home,” she said.
Since then they have had no kind words, or words at all from the hospital. “We are being made to wait for hours every time we go there, even for something as simple as getting the death certificate to allow us to prepare for the funeral… this is just so hard. I’m finding it so difficult to accept his death,” Hazel said.
By Monday, provincial Health Department spokesman Simon Zwane had not responded to questions sent on Friday. - Pretoria News