How Nigeria Almost Killed a 5-Hour Old Baby
I’m writing this with great sadness and pain in my heart. I’m frustrated and don’t know what else to do so I’m just going to write. You almost killed a five hour (yes, hour) old baby. Only the worst of murderers can do that.
On Saturday, I had my first Paediatrics call as a medical student. I was at the Children’s Emergency Ward on a weekend call which was to last from 8am Saturday to 8am Sunday. It was somewhere around the vicinity of 11pm. I had barely eaten anything all day and I was struggling to stand on my feet but as a doctor-in-training, I’m getting used to putting my own needs secondary most times just so the emergency cases can be attended to. Hypoglycemic and sitting outside the Emergency Ward to clear my head , a woman with a baby, a man (presumably her husband) and someone else rushed towards me. I led them inside to meet my superior so she could give them the urgent attention needed.
A hurried history taking and clerking showed that the baby was just 5 hours old at the time and had a complex cyanotic congenital heart disease. In simple terms, for this baby to remain alive she needed 100% oxygen. She was connected to an almost empty oxygen tank from the private hospital she had been delivered in.The only logical thing to do next was to admit the baby into the Special Care Baby Unit as there was little oxygen in the emergency/children’s wards. The little oxygen was even being shared amongst patients who needed them temporarily for a few minutes. This baby needed to remain connected to an oxygen cylinder or any other means of delivering oxygen otherwise in a matter of minutes, she would be dead.
A flurry of activities ensued and the baby was rushed to the special care unit. On getting there, I alerted the senior doctor on call there for the night. In less than a minute she arrived and sadly informed the parents that there was no oxygen. The parents were advised to look for any children’s hospital nearby. I noticed the mother stare forlornly at her daughter’s head cradled in her arms. The parents looked lost for words as they walked down the stairs that led to the special care baby unit (SCBU).
I remained in SCBU with my seniors who were checking up on the other babies admitted while wishing there was something I could do. I left SCBU to the Emergency unit which was my call station for the night. I saw the family of the newborn getting into the cab that had conveyed them to the hospital. It was 11pm and I knew it would be almost impossible for them to randomly find any children’s hospital before the oxygen cylinder ran out of oxygen. I did a quick Google search which led me to the closest Children’s hospital that was about 20minutes away. I dialed the number on the contact page of the hospital and spoke to the person who picked to confirm if there was oxygen in their facility. Thankfully, they had some. I gave directions as well as the contact details to the father of the child and hoped for the best as they drove away.
I strolled into the Emergency Unit to continue my call to avoid being noted as being absent from my duty post. When I got back into the emergency room, I looked around and wished there were better facilities to take care of patients. I wished we didn’t have to ask patients at times to buy things as basic as cannulas, syringes and gloves which should be covered by the health care fund the government is supposed to provided. I wished there would never be an occurrence where a patient would have to hear these five words, “Sorry, there is no oxygen.”
The next emergency case rushed in by almost 11:30pm and I got called by a senior registrar on to assist in the management of the case. That brought my wishful thinking to an abrupt halt and this is where I would have to stop my tirade. I could only hope that you would read all I’ve written here and not kill any more of your citizens.
Thanks in anticipation of a favourable reply, Nigeria.
Signed: A disgruntled 5th year medical student.