The pain of living with a child with some form of disability is unimagined and when that disability is not congenital but came about as a result of medical negligence, yet, you do not have the wherewithal to demand justice, you only carry the burden and suffer in silence.
Such is the story of Madam Agnes Asante, a 53-year-old single mother of five, whose daughter of 20 years has been blind, paralyzed, and bedridden since 2015, and the mother has to bathe, feed, and care for her. Despite her condition, the mother is unable to get her any medication and only depends on the grace to survive each day.
Narrating her story to GNA, in an attempt to find help for her daughter as she cannot bear the suffering anymore, Madam Asante said life has been very difficult for her and covid-19 had aggravated her situation since her source of livelihood to cater for herself and her ailing daughter had been adversely affected.
She goes to the homes of people to clean, wash and do all other menial jobs for survival on daily basis, “but with the covid-19, people don’t want me to enter their homes anymore and that means that I have nothing to depend on for income”.
“I switched to selling some fruits to get something to live on, but because of the stigma and name-calling in the community due to my daughter’s condition, I incurred some losses rather since all the fruits went bad” she sadly narrated.
It all started in October 2015, when Madam Asante took her 15-year-old JHS 2 daughter who returned from school sick and went to the hospital when she was admitted. She was told her daughter had been diagnosed with sickle cell disease and, therefore, needed medical attention, hence, the admission.
One morning on the third day at the hospital, her daughter was given an injection as part of the treatment regime for her but noted that a few seconds after the injection, her daughter who was hearty and hale, started to convulse and suddenly fell from the bed. “I shouted to call the nurses but nobody came to my rescue so I managed to lift her from the floor back to the bed, at that moment, some nurses were sitting at a corner of the Hospital fidgeting with their phones and when they sited me struggling with my girl rushed to the bedside”, she recalled amidst tears.
They then called the medical doctor who was in charge and emergency remedies including oxygen were administered to revive my daughter who had become unconscious after the convulsion and the fall. When she regained consciousness, she could not see and could not get up to walk again.
The traumatized mother said she overheard some of the nurses discussing among themselves that her daughter should not have been given that injection since that caused the convulsion, but nobody told her anything. It was after a few days, prior to her discharge that she was told to come for reviews and physiotherapy treatments.
Unfortunately after their discharge, they could not pay the medical bills so the Hospital made arrangements for the Social Welfare Department to pay the bills for them.
Madam Asante said she was of the firm belief that something went wrong at the hospital and that her suspicion was confirmed by the conversation she eavesdropped on the nurses but “can the poor fight for justice and who am I to contend with the hospital authorities”, she questioned
She said after two visits to the Physiotherapy unit at the hospital, she stopped going as she could not afford the hiring of a taxi and she could not also go round to look for a cleaning job to get some money for their upkeep.
She said her daughter’s condition keeps deteriorating each passing day, since “she is not on any medication, I only depend on God each passing day and hoping that she will get well but as at now, she has difficulty in recollecting things and cannot sleep, I always have to be awake in the night to attend to her, since she behaves abnormally at nights”.
Her husband who had moved out of their home long before the incident refused to take the matter up with the Hospital authorities when she narrated what had happened.
The Plight of this woman was worsened when a neighbour in their vicinity took advantage of the daughter’s situation and raped her when the mother had gone out, as usual, to do look for a job.
“Even though the culprit has been trialed and jailed, nothing was done to my daughter to compensate her for the trauma she went through when she was raped”, she sadly disclosed.
The plea of Madam Asante is that, it’s been five years but the pain is always fresh and that she wants to appeal to the public to help get medical attention for her daughter because she was optimistic that her condition could be reversed if she gets the needed medical attention and added that, “It’s been five years I am not interested in any litigation, all I am interested in is to get help for my daughter the only girl among my five children”.
Madam Asante despite her situation is not a beneficiary of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme introduced by the government to cushion people living on the poverty line and even though her daughter has become a person with multiple disabilities in the last five years. She has not received any support from the District Assembly’s fund allocated for persons with disabilities.
A Medical practitioner who spoke on condition of anonymity when contacted indicated that it was possible that the medication or the timing could have caused the convulsion and the subsequent paralysis and that it was unfortunate that the cause of it was not established nor the mother told anything in terms of the remedies and treatment available.
She said the mother could have pursued the matter especially when she had narrated that she overheard the nurses blaming their colleague for giving her that particular injection. “Even though that cannot be enough basis to claim negligence on the part of the health facility or the nurse, it would have been a critical point to have delved into the matter especially when her folder and all the records were available”.
Even though there are no available statistics in Ghana to show the number of medical negligence or malpractice cases, there have been many court reports of people suing health facilities for medical negligence leading to some life-threatening injuries or deaths of their loved ones and the latest is a High Court of Ghana ordering the 37 Military Hospital to pay over Ghc1million as damages for medical negligence leading to the death of a 27-year-old Ph.D. student and wife of a Military Officer.
There is also another case pending at the High court where Dr. Emmanuel Kuto, Director of the Ghana Institute of Languages is alleging medical negligence at the Ridge Hospital leading to the death of his wife and many others, which the courts are yet to rule on.
This is becoming too many and it is time for the Ghana Medical and Dental Council, Ghana Medical Association, and the Nurses and Midwifery Council to meet to find a lasting solution to it and apprehend culprits when found guilty.