The mother of a Nigerian university undergraduate who died at the National Hospital, Abuja says he died due to the negligence of the hospital.
Paul Akpala, 17, was hit by a car on January 23 while crossing a highway in the Nigerian capital city.
His distraught mother, Judy Akpala, said his life would have been saved if the hospital had managed his treatment professionally.
But the hospital on Tuesday said it did the best it could in the circumstance.
The driver of the car that hit Paul delivered him to the hospital conscious.
His mother noted that he was able to give his full name to the driver, following which the driver went to three radio stations in Abuja to announce he was in the hospital with Paul, in case his family was looking for him.
Mrs Akpala, who took to Facebook to express her anguish, said her son also gave his name to the medical team at the National Hospital.
Paul was a second-year of Computer Science at the University of Calabar, Cross River State.
According to the mother, the youngster had gone to Sheraton Hotel in Abuja on January 23 to interview for admission into a Canadian university.
She described him as a promising, extremely loving and gentle boy who was determined to explore the opportunity of a scholarship abroad.
Mrs Akpala said he called her after the interview around 3 p.m and she told him to go home as she was on her way to the airport to pick his father.
It was the last time she would speak with her son as he did not come home that night.
He was knocked down by a car in Berger Area of Wuse while trying to cross the freeway. The driver immediately drove him to the National Hospital, Abuja (NHA), which was the nearest hospital to the scene of the accident.
“We went searching for him when he did not come home,” the mother said.
“We went to police station and even had neighbours who went to Wuse General Hospital to check if there was an emergency. All the while, I was scared thinking it was a case of one chance or kidnap.
“All I could do was to keep praying that he comes out from wherever he was until we got a call the following morning that he was at the National hospital. At least I was grateful that they had seen him and he was in the hospital; only to get there and meet him unconscious,” she recalled.
She said a police officer who had picked his ATM card took the card to a branch of his bank at Utako, where incidentally his aunt works and was able to identify the owner.
At the hospital, Mrs Akpala said they meet Paul at the Trauma Intensive Care Unit (TICU) unconscious and on a life support machine. His legs were bandaged from the hips down, and he had some abrasions.
The mother said the man who knocked him down told them he had paid the hospital for three pints of blood, though the hospital at first told him there was no blood in its blood bank.
She said the man also claimed to have spoken to the orthopaedic doctor and paid N20,000 to have Paul’s legs cast in a POP. However, she was not sure that was done as she observed only bandages on the legs.
Mrs Akpala said the negligence of the hospital caused the death of their son.
“If the hospital had done some of the scans the doctors wrote for him within the first 24 hours, I believe they would have been able to save the life of my son. Instead, they waited 72 hours and until we started mounting pressures on them. The hospital did nothing at the most crucial hours”, she lamented.
She said they were just giving Paul injections, which made him less conscious and treating him for possible internal and head injuries.
“They kept my son in the ICU and were only allowing us to check on him. There were lots of test cards I summited to the nurses that they were just collecting and keeping in his file, not doing the tests. Some of the tests are the CT scan, X-ray, among others.
“Meanwhile, we paid N200,000 when we got there just for them to admit him into the ICU and to start his treatment. But nothing was done as regards tests. It was later on the third day that a nurse told me the x-ray machine in the ICU was bad, and as such, they could not do the test for him there,” she said.
Mrs Akpala said it was on the fourth day that the family decided to take him to a private diagnosis centre where it paid N120, 000 to get the CT scan done.
The scan revealed Paul had Pulmonary Fat Embolism.
“It was not easy to get them to allow us to take him out for the CT scan. There was no good ventilator in the hospital that we could use to take him out. Prior to that, I had noticed that the ventilator at the ICU was reading too high and I was telling the nurse to come to check it; that I did not like the way my son was breathing.”
Mrs Akpala said the nurse instead walked her out of the unit, telling her she could not teach her her job.
The mother lamented that the National Hospital which should be a world-class trauma intensive care unit had no working MRI, CT Scan and X-ray machine.
She said it was not easy to get a ventilator to go for the CT scan after paying for the ambulance, as the caregivers said the ventilator battery could not be relied on to take the patient to another facility for the scans.
‘They said the battery was weak and would not last the distance.
“We told them we were willing to buy another battery for the hospital. But they said that would require management approval and that, anyway, the battery was imported from Germany.
“When we insisted that something needed to be done, they brought another ventilator machine that was leaking gas, they fixed it, and we were able to move him on Saturday morning.”
“The doctors and nurses gave us false hope. They said he was ‘pretty stable.’ They told us there were no signs of internal injury but were treating against any possible head injury since he was unconscious.”
She said the private hospital saw the case as an emergency and was ready to perform surgery on him. “But the accompanying nurses from the National Hospital refused, they said it could cost them their jobs.
“They promised he would be moved to the theatre where surgery would be performed immediately. But when we got back, he was rolled back to ICU and less than 10 minutes later, Paul died.
“If the scans were working, the fat and blood accumulating in the lungs would have been discovered. The same surgery that they claimed to want to perform in his dying minutes could have been done and dusted a few hours after he got to the hospital.
“We were informed by the man who took him to the hospital that Paul spoke out his name. The hospital informed us that they gave him injections to make him less conscious because his reflexes were sharp and active,” Mrs Akpala said.
She said if all that needed to be done were done within the first 24 hours, her son would not have died.
But the hospital on Tuesday gave its version of the incident.
The deputy director of information and communication of the hospital, Tayo Haastrup, in a statement said the hospital did the best it could in the circumstance.
The hospital said Mr Akpala was attended to promptly by its Trauma, Orthopaedi, and Neurosurgical team.
Mr Haastrup said the deceased was “an obese man registered as unknown as he was unconscious at presentation to the hospital. Was brought to hospital after a road traffic accident on January 23, at 4:30 p.m.”
He said the patient was managed for “Traumatic Brain Injury and Bilateral Lower Limb Fractures.: He added that Paul “was unstable, given three units of blood, Clexane, and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and put on life support (ventilator).
“His conditions further deteriorated despite treatment”, Mr Haastrup said.
The spokesperson said the CT scan in the hospital was under repair “and when it became necessary to have a CT scan, patient was moved to a diagnosis centre on a ventilator accompanied by two senior doctors and a nurse.”
Mr Haastrup agreed with the parent that the result of the CT scan showed Pulmonary Fat Embolism, “which is a known complication of long born fractures with attendant poor outcome.”
He, however, said Pulmonary Fat Embolism does not require surgical operation; “hence the patient was moved back to the Intensive Care Unit.
“We state unequivocally that the hospital did its best in his circumstance,” he said.
Mr Akpala’s parents called for an investigation into the activities of the National Hospital Abuja.
They also called on everyone with a similar experience as theirs, who can attribute the cause of death of their loved ones to the ineptitude of National Hospital, to stand with them.
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