It can happen to you
“The lights have gone!” I said as I lay in the post delivery ward. I hope U.T.H has the decency of ensuring the Paediatric ICU has power I thought. Panic gripped my heart but there was no way of relaying my fears to anyone.The nurse had gone out to look for candles no doubt. I was still dizzy due to for the loss of blood I had encountered during the emergency caesaria I’d had. November 9 around 18hrs my precious baby girl was born. She was 33 weeks old, born prematurely. Her weight was good and her doctors said she would make it. She was given medicine to help her lungs mature. However she was still hooked to a machine to help her breathe but doctors said in the morning they would remove her from it as she was doing well.
My heart was still pounding I needed to go see if my baby was okey . Was I being irrational? Of course a huge institution like U.T.H would have emergency generators in case there were power failures. With all the load shedding Zambia was experiencing, of course the management of U.T.H would make sure their Paediatric ICU would have a continuous, uninterrupted supply of electricity. I tried to calm myself but I couldn’t sleep. 15minutes later the nurse showed up with candles.
“Sister, please I need to check on my baby,” I pleaded.
“Nama drip yonse! Why can’t you just wait till morning.There’s no one to escort you in the dark anyway,”she responded.
I sat on my bed and started weeping. I waited till 06.00hrs when I knew other mothers were going to feed their babies at D block. I managed to slip past the Sister and hide my drip in my chitenge. I was weak but I had to get to my baby.
I wondered why the maternity wards were so far away from the paediatric wards.
As I approached D block I heard wailing. My heart pounded within my chest. All the babies that had been on ventilators had died. When the lights had gone after midnight it had done so also in D block and the ventilators that use electricity had stopped working. The babies that were depending on the machines for oxygen must have suffocated to death.
“Mayo inee,” I screamed. I felt very dizzy but I had to see my little angel, I had to see if indeed she was one of the babies that had died.
“Mamie endani ku ward. Mwana ali mu mortuary,” the D block sister said to me when I inquired about my baby.
These people did not even inform us of our babies dying and quickly took them to the mortuary.The information was too much for me and I collapsed.
I awoke to find myself back in the ward, my husband and mother sitting next to me. My husbands eyes were red and swollen. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare.
“Wheres my baby,”I cried.
“Hush now,” my mother tried to comfort me.
I cried for the next hour. My husband went to mortuary to arrange for burial. He came back 30minutes later. I was not prepared for what he told me. Due to some rule or regulation he was ordered to bury the baby immediately and was told there was no need for a coffin. They told him, I the mother didn’t need to be there. I collapsed again after hearing this.
My child was apparently was not human enough to be afforded an descent funeral. I was not even worthy enough to be given an opportunity to say bye to my child. I had carried this child for 33 weeks. Do these administrators care? Anyway why would they care I’m just an ordinary Zambian woman from Kalingalinga. I do not have a voice. Did I even get an appology? Someone did show up on TV the next day and say U.T.H is just fine. Should I sue U.T.H? Why bother when we have an incompetent justice system. I do not earn enough to throw my money at lawyers.That won’t bring my baby back. So who do I blame for this gross incompetence that has killed my baby? How much is a generator anyway? People are busy having fundraising dinner dances donating millions of kwacha to useless ventures, while innocent lives are lost in a poorly under funded poor excuse for a hospital.
Politicians, U.T.H directors continue living their lives but my life has stopped in a sense. This negligence will forever affect my life. What do a have to show for the millions I earn in Zambia but a dead baby due to a power cut? I did not even want to go to U.T.H in the first place but the private hospital said they could not handle my case. Who do I blame for this gross incompetence? Perhaps if there was sign hanging over D block reading “warning this premises does not have a back up generator, in case of power failure your baby could die”, I would not have allowed my little one to be admitted. What do those of us who can not afford to fly to South Africa for treatment do? Is there anything ,anyone is doing to change the deplorable situation at U.T.H? Is there someone who will speak for the babies who died that day. Does anyone out there care?
This story is dedicated to baby M who died on 11th November 2008 in D block UTH, Lusaka Zambia as a consequence of the power failure that occurred shortly after midnight.