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Patient in botched KNH surgery recounts his ordeal

Irene Githinji @gitshee

The patient whose surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) was swapped yesterday described the harrowing experience he underwent after an accident. A seemingly feeble John Nderitu could hardly narrate his story to the Parliamentary Committee on Health. His sister, Pauline Njeri and mother Veronica Wanjiru spoke on his behalf.

The family said Nderitu, who was involved in a motorcycle accident, is still unwell but they are afraid of taking him back to KNH’s neuro-surgery clinic on March 19 for review as instructed by doctors.

The mother broke down as she recounted her ordeal, and the devastating news that her son had died. Njeri said the hospital only took keen interest after word went round that Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki was to visit the facility to follow up on the case. It all began when Njeri received a call on February 18, informing her that her brother had been involved in an accident. Njeri rushed Nderitu to St Francis hospital where a CT scan showed a blood clot in the brain, where they were referred to KNH.

Upon arrival, she handed over the referral letter and the CT scan to a nurse at casualty. They then waited in Room 9 until 6am the next day when a doctor informed her Nderitu needed surgery to remove a clot in his brain.

She was given theatre consent papers to sign and asked to pay Sh20,500 but until midday they had not been attended to. “When we got to Ward 5A, a nurse asked for the patient’s name. I could hear the nurses conversing amongst themselves asking why he had been taken to the ward instead of the theatre,” she said. Four doctors were later to tell her that her brother would not require surgery.

Throughout this period, the all-critical labeling of the patient was not done. Most of the time Nderitu was left unattended. “Nderitu did not have any label of his name on him. It was until morning when the CS was visiting the hospital that things changed. Their bedding and gowns were also changed. Suddenly, all other patients in Ward 5A had wrist-labels,” she said.

She said she even met Head of Neurology, Gichuru Mwangi, who explained her brother’s situation. Pauline also said they later learned about the other patient, Samuel Wachira, who was wrongly operated on.

They found him recuperating alone in a tiny room. To date, she said, they have never been issued with the results of the CT scan, X-rays and other tests her brother took at KNH. Nderitu is still on medication and they had to buy it elsewhere because the hospital said it did not have them. Their mother said she ran into depression after news went round that her son had died.

Earlier in the day, the committee sent away KNH’s board of management for lack of quorum. Three out of 10 members, led by chairman, Mark Bor, turned up and this did not go down well with the members of the committee.

The members were particularly irked when Bor said the rest of the members were busy and could not appear before the committee. Part of the nursing team was at pains to explain how the labeling was done and the entire procedure before the patient could get to the operating table.

Mary Nyambura, the receiving nurse at Ward 5A, said she was shocked to learn that “it seemed I took the wrong patient to theatre”. Doctors said they only discovered they had the wrong patient when they opened his skull.

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