Detained mother of triplets: This is my story, by medical director
THE story of 27- year-old Gloria Okorie, who was allegedly detained seven weeks after she was delivered of a set of triplets, caused a stir when it hit the headlines last week. Gloria, claimed that negligence on the part of the management of Blessylva Hospital and Maternity Home, Agege, Lagos, where she was allegedly detained over inability to settle outstanding bills, led to the death of one of the babies.
But the Medical Director, of the hospital, Dr. Ngozi Nwachukwu, denied the allegation, and stated that she and her staff did their best for Gloria and her babies. Nwachukwu, who revealed that Gloria's travail began on May 10, 2016 when she was rushed to the hospital. She said she (Gloria) was seven months pregnant when she was admitted following a forced contraction (labour). Upon examination, it was discovered that her bag of water was broken.
How it all started: “On May 9, 2016, she (Gloria) and her husband came to the hospital because she was draining (the water that was holding the babies was coming out of her). Draining the water I advised her to be on admission to see if we could stop the forced labour so that the babies could stay a little longer. She said she would not sleep in the hospital. I begged her. Her husband begged her, but she was adamant. We treated her and she left.” Nwachukwu further, explained that to their surprise, Gloria was rushed back to the hospital in the mid night of the next day (May 10, 2016). “It was discovered that the labour had progressed so much and we prepared her for delivery. Being our antenatal patient all we were concerned about was to save the three babies.”
Nwachukwu recalled that Gloria, who knew she was expecting triplets, came to the hospital without anything. Almost in tears as she narrated the encounter with the Okorie family, she said, “When these children were delivered, we tried our best to revive them. We used oxygen and we needed an incubator. But there was no money. The couple could not afford an incubator. We went out searching for incubators but there was no money. We invited the family to assist but they also said there was no money. We even invited the extended family who also had no money.
They said I should do whatever I could, that money would not be a problem. I could not afford the N100, 000 for an incubator. So what do we do? I began to seek assistance.” Incubators: Faced with the situation, Nwachukwu said she contacted the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly for assistance. “I called the Lagos State Speaker and informed him that we had triplets and needed help. He promised to send some people to us but they never came. I reported to the chairman of our zone that the family is poor and that they could not afford to take care of the babies. He said there are protocols to follow.” Smaller incubator The Nwachukwu triplets Due to the urgency of the situation and condition of the babies then, Nwachukwu said she invested her money to obtain a smaller incubator for the babies. “If nothing was done immediately, we might have lost the babies. We went to the General Hospital at Ifako-Ijaye, but they had no incubator. We were referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH. The lives of the babies were at risk, and moving them around could cause more harm. So I rented a much smaller incubator for N50,000 and we did that for three days and another three days again. I felt that at that level, I could manage them.”
Expressing shock at the stories making the rounds about Gloria's predicament, she lamented the way the family criticised her after the gallant efforts she and her staff put in to save their lives.
“We are not against patients raising funds for any assistance but we take objection to patients runing the hospital in the name of whipping-up sentiments to raise money. After Gloria's babies were delivered we could not send them home immediately because the babies were premature. Even when they could not pay for the incubator, we still accommodated them.
“I told them after we were able to rent one incubator because the babies were premature and I could not release them to go home. The babies needed to be managed for sometime before they could be discharged. The woman's breast milk was not flowing when it mattered most. We could not give them artificial milk at that time because it would cause them harm. I kept managing them with all the resuscitation skills I ever acquired. I was also using water until they were a- month- old and we introduced powdered milk which they tolerated up till they left the hospital. When we started managing these babies, it was with my own money. My hope to continue treatment was the assurance the husband gave that he would be paying the bill in installments. I agreed because I know them. I could not reject them because they had no money.” Allegation of negligence: Nwachukwu dismissed Gloria's claim that it was lack of care that led to the death of one of the babies: “If they felt I was not taking care of them why did they not leave? I tried to refer them to the General Hospital, but they refused. They claimed they might lose the babies if they went there. They cited instances in which such had occurred. I decided it was in God's hands and that I would do my best. That particular baby died soon after it was born. I revived the baby more than five times through resuscitation, but it eventually passed on. The mother knew. She was crying and said to me that she thought the baby had died, but I still revived the dead baby. I told her, it is not my power but God. We rejoiced over the babies.
Earlier, I had told the couple that with its condition, the baby might not survive, but the others had better chance of survival. At that time, the weather was not too good for the baby; unfortunately it died later, not through child birth. I did my best even without an incubator.” Detention: “It is sad and strange that Gloria possibly thought she was detained even when she knew her babies were premature and nobody chased, detained or threatened them. In few days, the babies will be two months. My only sin was that I called them to say the children have survived, and that none of them will die again. I then asked what they are going to do regarding their bills. I asked the husband to pay part of the outstanding bill and take the children home and pay the balance gradually. God knows that I never wronged them. I actually insisted that they should pay part of the money because most people, when they are released often never come back. The husband begged me but I insisted they should pay part of the money. I was ready to forfeit the rest if they did not come back to settle it.
Changing his life story
He said the journalist did not explain to him that it was going to come out the way it did. He said he only solicited for help. I did not believe him and said he lied. But he was insistent. He said the journalist asked him questions and he answered, but that it was his brother; a police officer that asked him to make it look as if he was detained otherwise people would not give him money.
“I told him he got it wrong, that he ought to have told me about his intention and we would have made the story more palatable if it was about changing his life story. I would have advised him better. I said to him that he went to the media to say he owed N35, 000.00 when he owed more than that. He began to cry and continued begging me. I was bitter because they claimed they were detained. After the publication, a lot of people came and brought money to them, right in this my office. I received about 20 people. I never asked them how much they were given. The cash I was aware of was the N500, 000 because the two gentlemen came to my office and said this N500, 000 was for the triplets. I took them to the couple and they gave them the money.
“Another person came and gave N200, 000. They never gave me any money, the only money I used for my bill was the money people paid directly to me. In fact there is a cheque here which is N35, 000 from one NGO that came, they asked me how much was the money and I told them the bill and they said they only came with N35, 000. Total bill: The outstanding balance was N67, 000. The total bill was N120,000 but I deducted N20,000 and asked them to pay N100,000. The list of the items we bought were not in the bill. Concern: My concern is that my name has been damaged.
If they want to make money with their babies they should go to another place and plan it very well and not spoil my name. The outstanding bill has been cleared as another person came to pay N32,000. When I finally asked them to go she refused to leave under the pretext that one of the babies was running temperature. I said leave. I don't want you to put me in trouble.
Running of temperature They have cleared your bill. Go home. She said she was not going and wanted to stay till weekend but I said no. What the children need now is post treatment. Somebody came in yesterday from Lagos State Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, WAPA, and dropped N30, 000 with me. I called her immediately to inform her that somebody has paid money for further treatment, she said can she come to collect the money. I was shocked. Thank God the people that came yesterday (Thursday) came back today (Friday) to collect their money. After 15 years of practice I would not want anyone to mess me up. Nwachukwu, further alleged that Gloria gave a fake home addresses with the hospital. “We just discovered that the residential addresses they gave us were fake. We gave some people the numbers but they came to report they did not find anyone with such names.