By Esther Nakkazi
Today I was a medical officer for some minutes and witnessed the birth of a fat baby girl in one of the parking yards of Mulago hospital. So besides being a freelance journalist (which I am trying for a few months, the highlight so far was getting arrested after an assignment on my way from southern Sudan) I am also trying to lead a team that will hold the second health journalists conference.
I have a team of volunteers’ mostly young people from the US on internship, research or something, which is great because Ugandans idea of volunteering is still low and I totally understand it. So these days I get to talk to various people in the medical field not for interviews for stories but to ask for a hand- to either come to speak at the conference or give us some funding. We promise to put up everything on the website www.hejnu.com
Anyways I go to Mulago, the school, often to speak about the programme. Today I had an appointment with Dr. Jolly Beyeza and got some progress. The Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Uganda has agreed to fund half a day of the conference. I was happy walking humming and decided to pass by and chat with my cousin, a nurse at Mulago hospital.
After the chat I walked to the parking yard and there was this woman on the floor. The two women around her were screaming doctor, doctor help. Okay I was carrying my laptop but am no doctor; I don’t even look like one. Mistake.
Then I came closer and added my screams to the two the baby was coming. Lucky, another passerby, a nurse who I later got to learn was Brian Kibuuka an ECN. He quickly asked for gloves, by this time the crowd was bigger. Although the hospital was 2 minutes away there was actually no doctor or nurse coming to help.
So this Brian was real quick with in five minutes the baby was born and the mother was padded. Then I called him aside amidst the shouts. “It was at the third stage of labor. IT was not a complicated birth at all. Mother and baby should be fine but she should go to the hospital for a check-up,” Brian told me. It was his second roadside delivery but 61st birth since he became a nurse.
Then he left. I pulled my phone to take some pictures to accompany this story/blog, but could not. You woman you are a journalist; now they knew; why are you taking this woman’s pictures. It is something we have discussed about in newsrooms, taking pictures in medical and health care reporting. The woman was in a pool of blood. I felt a swell in my throat and put back the phone in my bag.
But the disagreement, which had stopped, briefly to interrogate me was should this woman go inside the hospital after having delivered her baby here in the parking lot. The majority of the women were shouting “No she should not go inside the hospital. Those nurses and doctors heard us screaming for help but none of them came to our rescue. This guy (Brian) was only passing by and he helped.”
I was on the side of women saying no matter what the mother, Agnes, should go to hospital for check up and have the child given a tetanus jab. I have a sharp, piercing voice but it was like a whisper. It took about 10 minutes to just shout about this simple issue. One man, I suspected was the father, shouted the most that Agnes and baby should just go home. I guess he was afraid of paying bills. The medical people or they were not who passed by did not intervene. Agnes was just looking on saying nothing.
Anyway I remembered I had to go for another appointment. As I was pulling out of the parking, I saw Agnes with her fat baby girl on a boda boda leaving Mulago.
I only said a ‘thank you God’ because it was not a complicated birth or else it would be another maternal mortality and childbirth death statistic. Maternal health will be one of the issues we shall discuss extensively at the second health journalists conference due this September.