Within three hours on February 23, Taiwo George, TheCable’s news editor, witnessed the death of two children at the Oncology unit of the pediatric ward of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos.
A week later, he was back at the same ward to witness the death of two others. Worried by the number of lives lost to the passive response of health workers to emergencies, George returned to the hospital a few more times – and even found some time to donate blood to a child who, sadly, eventually passed on.
“I mopped her body; I mopped her body!”
Those words were the wails of the mother of Pelumi, an eight year-old child who passed on in the wee hours of the day, owing to late medical response.
Pelumi was the last survivor of the set of 14 children who underwent treatment at the hospital after they were diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
DYING HOURS OF A SICK CHILD
A few hours to her death, Pelumi’s mother was hesitant in giving her water to drink, probably in line with medical advice.
“Please let me drink water; mum, please let me drink water,” she begged. The mother eventually succumbed.
Hours later, the girl started gasping for life. The doctor on housemanship, who was on call, rushed to her bedside but not after five minutes had passed. Two nurses, who had been resting in one of the rooms, rushed in. They were later joined by two senior female doctors but all this could not bring Pelumi back to life. Perhaps she could have survived if help had come at the right time.
The young doctor documented the little girl’s death and moved over to Temilolu Fadodun – the next victim – who was wide awake all night after undergoing blood transfusion.
Pelumi’s dad, who had earlier been briefed about the situation, walked into the ward at that moment. It was a few minutes past 5am. From the looks on the man’s face, it was obvious his sleep had been interrupted.
After listening to the doctor, he placed both hands on his head, screaming: “You people have killed this child.
“You wasted her life. I was complaining of inadequate attention last night and no one cared. See what this has resulted into. You refused to monitor her after dousing her with so much chemotherapy. You told me you couldn’t do surgery here and I took her outside, only for us to return here and have this. See how you killed my child!”
GOD IS NOT TO BLAME
He refused to be swayed by the appeal of the health workers who wanted him to accept that his daughter’s death was God’s doing.
“Don’t tell me that,” he snarled, staring at Pelumi’s lifeless body. “I am a man of God. Don’t bring God into this. You people killed my child.”
Although the mother of the child had been taken to a corner, where she was surrounded by sympathisers, her cries pierced through the entire ward.
“Pelumi has turned to a corpse; my own Pelumi is gone forever,” she said in Yoruba.
Temilolu’s dad was very bitter, not just with the medical workers but also parents he said were failing to learn from the tragedy of others.
“Few moments after a child passes on, you will see other parents carrying on as if nothing happened,” he told TheCable in an anger-laden tone.
“I’m sure these parents will soon start playing with the health workers. It’s only someone who loses his child that knows the pain. You see other parents laughing with the doctors and nurses after such tragic encounters, instead of uniting to condemn their lackadaisical attitude to work. See how they killed that child; only God knows who is next.”
Sadly, the man who had been running helter-skelter not just throughout that day but for several months was the next in line to feel the pain that was being spoken of.