7 Sept 2010

A mother’s pain–reposted.

On Tuesday August 17th, around 8 am, I, Nalene Anirudh, took my son, Andrew Anirudh, to the Couva Health Centre. Andrew had a fever and he was complaining of muscle aches and pain. When I arrived at the health centre, a blood sample was taken and Andrew was tested negative for Dengue virus.

However, his blood platelet count was low. After he was examined and given a bath, I was asked to give him panadol and lots of fluids and to return on Thursday the 19th of August for another blood test.

On Thursday, my sister Omatie took Andrew to the Couva Health Centre. After waiting for almost two hours, she was told that the blood testing machine was malfunctioning. Then my sister took him to a private doctor (Dr Manohar from Couva) who did the blood test. He told us to return in three hours for the results. My sister returned home and gave Andrew panadol and a bottle of water.

After 20 minutes, Andrew got up from the bed and began walking towards the bathroom, when suddenly he fainted. He was unconscious, and the ambulance was called. They arrived within seven minutes.

Then, my sister Omatie went to the Couva Health Centre with Andrew again. He was still unconscious. They arrived just after 11 o'clock am. Andrew remained there for more than two hours without being given any attention. I arrived as soon as I heard my son had fainted and was taken to the Couva Health Centre.

They told me that dengue is not an emergency case. All this while, my son was still unconscious. I finally took it upon myself to call the private doctor who confirmed that Andrew had dengue. I had to go and collect the results, and only when they saw that he was positive for dengue and that his blood count was below 100 did they react with some urgency.

One male doctor saw that I was beginning to get angry with the casual, lackadaisical approach to my son's ailment. He responded by saying, "I can't handle her!" Finally, a female doctor attended to my son after I began having an attitude and letting those taking care of my son know how disappointed I was in their response toward him.

It was the mother in me who was crying for someone to help my son. They saw me as being rude and loud, but I was watching my son lying unconscious, and my gut feeling was that this was critical. Yet, no one saw my son's condition as an emergency.

After 15 minutes of getting medical attention, my son regained consciousness. Then, he was sent to the San Fernando General Hospital where he was shown the same casual attention.

The ambulance arrived around 3pm and he was taken in the emergency area. There, he was placed on a chair and asked to wait with his IV, a urine bag, blood vial samples, and paper work in his hand. He sat there for more than three hours before he was attended to. I was not allowed to stay with him. When he collapsed again, a nurse finally came with a wheelchair, and took him inside. After 20 minutes, a doctor finally saw my son. Finally, the IV was placed on my son. I stood in the room with him.

Again, he was sent to the third floor where he was seen by a doctor. After he was placed on a chair again with his IV, urine bag, and blood sample in his hand, I was told there was no bed available. I pleaded with the doctor to help my son. He said there was no space, but he will make every effort to help my son. He advised me to give him orange juice, and he respectfully listened to me. Although he was sympathetic and understanding, again, Andrew sat on a chair for more than three hours before he was warded.

While he sat on his chair unattended, his urine bag filled. I asked the nurse for help. She said that this was a public place and she could not change it. I asked her to show me what to do so that I can empty it myself. I took my son to the bathroom and attended to him.

Then I felt better, knowing that my son was in a ward, and left the hospital knowing that he would now be given the attention he required.

When I saw my son the next morning, he looked very ill, but was happy to see me. By now, he looked very weak and was having problems taking fluids via his mouth.

Again, I pleaded to stay with my son and feed him. The mother in me, I could not leave my son in this condition. He was helpless, and I was not given permission to stay - hospital protocol!

My son was treated like an adult because he was 18 years old. Still, he cried for me to come and be with him because he could not help himself. On one occasion, my son vomited, and my son called the nurse for help. She acknowledged him and said that she will be there soon. She never came. My son remained with the vomit bag in his hand. A patient opposite from him saw that Andrew needed help and went to his assistance.

My son continued to grow weaker. I was not given any clue about my son's progress.

On Sunday, I saw some blood in the urine. On Monday, I was bathing him and saw blood flowing from his mouth. After using the bathroom, his toilet seat was bloody. I felt that something was very wrong and complained to the nurse. Then, my son was taken to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) because he was also having difficulty breathing.

In ICU, Andrew finally received much care and attention, but by now the disease had progressed to its final stage.

Before I left, the doctor took my phone number and said that he would call me if his condition worsens. My gut feel is that the doctor already knew the outcome.

On Tuesday morning, I received a phone call around 3am. My husband and I were asked to come right away to the hospital. We were allowed to stay with him until he passed away at 8.09am on Tuesday morning.

My family will never be the same again. Words cannot express the pain of losing my first-born son. I find myself crying every time I think of my son. All I have to comfort me is my faith in Christ and the memories from pictures, videos and family stories.

I am sharing my experience so that other parents can read, be informed and make life saving decisions with regards to their loved ones. If I had known this was how my loving, precious son would be treated in his greatest hour of need, I would have explored other options.

My mistake was having confidence in the health care system.

My questions for the authorities are:

How would you react if your child was shown this kind of care?

What would you do if you lost a loved one when you know that time and attention could have made a difference?

Would you take the chance in entrusting the doctors and nurses at the public hospitals to take care of your loved ones, or would you take them to private nursing homes?

How many doctors and nurses work at the public hospitals and also carry on their own private businesses?

Are their commitments to their jobs the same in both environments?

Doctors, nurses, care givers, to you it’s another day on the job. However, to the families whose loved ones are placed in your care, it’s more than a job – it’s the very essence for which they live and sacrifice.

Please treat every patient who comes to you as if he or she is your very own child or relative. Perhaps, then, you can truly learn how to show genuine care and compassion, and this, in its very self can bring hope and comfort to those who rely on your expertise.

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank everyone who supported us in our time of grief. Your outpouring of love and compassion will always be remembered, appreciated, and treasured.

Thank you ever so much.


The Anirudh family

EDITOR’S NOTE: On August 20, the SWRHA's Chief Executive Officer, Paula Chester-Cumberbatch said the San Fernando General Hospital had an aggressive plan to deal with, diagnose and treat dengue victims. It included a triage system to deal specifically with dengue patients.

"Suspected dengue patients do not have to wait in line for attention.”

The SWRHA CEO said new and modern equipment had been installed at the Couva and Princes Town Health Care facilities, and that blood results could be accessed within 15 minutes.

"This new arrangement cuts down the travelling time to take the samples to the lab at San Fernando. A special team headed by the doctor in charge of infectious diseases has been assigned to monitor all activities relating to the newly-established dengue clinic."

The hospital also added 15 more beds to the medical wards to cater to the increased demand.

The link to the story is here.