A complaint of negligence against a local paediatrician has been laid and will be investigated by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) after a young Polokwane mother found her four-day-old baby dead in his cradle last month.
Nicoline Strydom told Polokwane Observer her heartbreaking story exclusively. She explained the events that led up to her baby being allegedly misdiagnosed with colic when the autopsy revealed that baby Nathan Strydom died from neonatal meningitis caused by group B streptococcus.
“I had a normal pregnancy and went for regular check-ups. Everything seemed 100% fine. This was our first born. We were so excited to meet our little bundle of joy, Nathan,” she said.
“On 13 March I went into labour at 39 weeks of pregnancy. My husband took me to a private hospital in the city. Nathan was born that afternoon and he was perfectly healthy. We were both discharged the next day and given a clean bill of health.”
Strydom said her baby became very fussy and started to cry a lot. He seemed to be in a lot of pain and struggled to feed. They took him back to the hospital the next morning, on 15 March.
“The paediatrician had a quick look at him and diagnosed him with colic. I explained his symptoms to her and she again confirmed it was colic and sent us home with a prescription for medication. He did look a little better every time we gave him his medicine.”
The morning of 17 March is a morning Strydom will never forget. “I nursed him and laid him down in his cradle at about 05:00. When my husband JP and I woke up we found him dead in his cradle. At first we blamed ourselves wondering what we did wrong. But then the autopsy report showed he had died of neonatal meningitis caused by group B streptococcus.”
She said she started doing research and what she found shocked her. “Even though I did a lot of research during my pregnancy, I never came across any mention of group B streptococcus. Nathan’s death could have been prevented if I had been tested at 37 weeks of pregnancy for this bacteria. If the test was done and I tested positive, all they would have had to do was to give me intravenous antibiotics during delivery,” she said, adding that she was never asked if she wanted to be tested for this bacteria or informed about it.
According to information researched on several medical sites on the internet, an estimated 20 to 30% of pregnant women carry this bacteria but 99% of babies born to mothers who carry the bacteria are perfectly healthy. This was confirmed by a local general practitioner who did not wish to be named. He said this bacteria, along with at least another 200 other possible illnesses, were not tested for as the chance of the babies contracting them from their mothers were so remote.
“I want to get the word out and warn pregnant women of this. All pregnant women should insist on this test at 37 weeks of pregnancy. I don’t want anyone else to go through the pain we are going through,” the heartbroken mother concluded.
Madeline Kwele, secretary to the senior manager of legal services at the HPCSA confirmed in writing that the complaint had been received and would in due course be investigated.
Polokwane Observer tried to contact the paediatrician concerned telephonically, by SMS and by e-mail without success and by the time of going to print no comment had been received.
Story: KAREN VENTER