Babies Probe Turns to Pumwani

As investigations continue into the so-called miracle babies, the role Pumwani Maternity Hospital of Nairobi may have played in the saga is coming into sharp focus.

Mothers who have gone there have reported baby thefts and swaps at East Africa’s largest maternity hospital.

A view of Pumwani Maternity Hospital inof Nairobi’s Eastlands. Photo by File .

As investigations extend beyond Kenyan borders, they will focus on Pumwani, which has been accused also of deceit, callousness, neglect and even murders.

They will try to unravel the “miracle babies” mystery, especially the man behind the claim, Archbishop Gilbert Deya – a Kenyan preacher based in London, whose story broke out last month.

Couples who reclaim their babies after identification, invariably say that they were born at Pumwani, prompting the Kenyan police to turn their attention to the once famous hospital.

The shocking details of baby deaths or disappearances were first exposed by the Nation’s Outlook magazine, but they were swiftly dismissed by the hospital authorities as well as the ministry of Local Government, under which the hospital falls.

Although the expose led to the establishment of an investigation team by the then minister, Mr Karisa Maitha, the 170 employees were warned against leaking information to the media.

On May 14, a jovial Ms Magret Waithera was admitted to the hospital after experiencing labour pains. Her sister-in-law and a neighbour took her there because her husband, Mr Erastus Onyango, was away.

The following day, Mr Onyango saw his wife and talked to her at the ward. He even brought with him baby napkins and a few clothes.

“I remember talking to her on this day, and the only thing she complained of was that she was hungry,” said Mr Onyango.

But on the third day when he went to check on his wife, her name was not on the delivery list. He spent an agonising six days shunting between Pumwani and Kenyatta National Hospital looking for her.

All this time, the Pumwani staff were not willing to tell him what had become of his wife and baby.

They lied to him that she had been transferred to Kenyatta after developing complications. But after insisting on knowing her whereabouts, the staff finally gave him the bombshell: his wife’s body had been transferred to City Mortuary after she died.

Mr Onyango recognised his wife at the mortuary, but the baby she had had given birth to was nowhere.

No explanation was given as the Pumwani staff maintained that she had died at Kenyatta, a claim he dismissed outright.

Police will also be investigating a bizarre case involving a 19-year-old househelp, Ms Wambui. She was taken to the hospital on January 10 while in labour. She was duly admitted and later gave birth.

Despite hearing her baby cry after delivery, she was informed that the infant had died from unexplained causes. A few days later, nurses told her the baby had been treated for burns, apparently sustained at the incubator. She was left confused as to whether the burnt baby was really hers.

Though she admitted having had a vague idea of the appalling treatment and conditions at the hospital, she had been desperate for help.

The third case that may also help shed light on child trafficking is that of Ms Anastasia Wairimu, who was admitted to the hospital on April 30.

Ms Wairimu, who is paralysed in the left leg after she fell in the hospital corridor, spent four days at the facility, but went home without a baby even after she heard it cry at birth.

But that is not the only problem confronting her; she might not deliver again as her uterus was ruptured during the delivery. She claims she struggled alone to give birth when the nurses abandoned her.

“Although I was in so much pain, I saw a baby boy and heard him cry, but when I was discharged, they did not give us the baby or the body to bury,” Ms Wairimu told the Nation mid this year.

The fourth case, which raises more questions than answers, is that of Mr Charles Ndungu Nderitu and his wife Eunice Mungai.

Eunice was admitted to the hospital on January 6, 2003, and gave birth to a baby girl on January 9. The new-born cried and was taken away by a nurse after delivery.

Her request to see her baby was constantly turned down. Then came the bad news four days later: she was informed that her baby had jaundice.

“I was told that my child had jaundice and that we needed to donate blood for transfusion. I was told to sign some documents, which I did,” she said later.

On January 12, Eunice went to breast-fed the baby, whom they had named Ann Mumbi. But, to her surprise, she noticed that the newborn looked much smaller and weaker. She also discovered that the baby had an extra finger and toe on each hand and leg, which her baby never had.

And that was not all. On January 20 when Eunice went for another session of breast-feeding, she was left speechless when she learnt that her baby’s left leg had been burnt from the knee to the toes.

“She had fresh blisters all over her left leg. This was 9am, yet I had breast-fed her at 6am and her leg was whole then. I sought an explanation, but could not get any,” Eunice told the Nation.

The couple were later transferred to Kenyatta where the doctors discovered that their baby was HIV-positive.

The couple were lost for words as Eunice had tested negative several times during her frequent visits to the ante-natal clinic.

The doctors said the baby could have been given bad blood at Pumwani during the transfusion.

The couple did not know what to do next as their community was yet to accept the disease. They then sought the help of Nairobi Women’s Hospital, where they were advised to take an HIV test. The results were negative.

After a struggle with Aids-related illnesses, the child died on June 5 after the couple spent thousands of shillings on medicine and moving in and out of hospitals for over four months.

Ms Virginia Warima and Mr Grishon Muhika have been struggling since last year to find clues to the whereabouts of their baby, who disappeared from Pumwani.

The young couple claimed that their baby was stolen by a nurse moments after delivery. Investigations ordered by Mr Maitha yielded little fruit. “I was admitted to Pumwani on January 11, 2003, and delivered a baby boy the following day,” Virginia recalled.

“I saw the baby and even heard him cry. Then the nurse went away with the child to clean and weigh him. But when she returned, she was without my child,” she added.

When she tried to inquire further, the nurses told her that her baby had died, but Virginia was not convinced.

The couple insisted on seeing their dead child, and were referred to the hospital mortuary. However, the search was fruitless and they were referred to the newborn section.

At the section, Ms Virginia told the Nation, a nurse held a lengthy discussion with the mortuary attendant.

“We could not tell what they were saying, but when the attendant was leaving the room, I remember him saying: “Mimi sitamwambia, njoo umwambie wewe (I won’t tell him, you better tell him yourself),” recalled Grishon.

They reported the matter to the police who demanded that they undergo a DNA test.

But they also had to endure the frustration of getting the results from the Buru Buru police station in Nairobi.

“The officers refused to give me the results. They only told me by word of mouth that the baby at the mortuary was mine. I immediately rejected the results because I knew they had been doctored,” said Ms Virginia.

Thus, as the spotlight is turned on Pumwani Maternity Hospital, one thing the investigators should be ready for is more shocking tales of mothers and their newborn babies.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Nation (via AllAffrica)
Jeff Otieno
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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday September 11, 2004.
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