Sad tale of a woman mistreated at labour

When Betty Nakiru went to Kawolo Hospital in Lugazi to deliver her baby, she was prepared for pain. After all this was not her first time in the labour ward. Nothing could have prepared her for what she experienced that evening.

Sunday June 22 2014

Betty Nakiru, the woman who says she was mistreated by midwives at Kawolo Hospital

Betty Nakiru, the woman who says she was mistreated by midwives at Kawolo Hospital during labour displays one of the clothes she had bought for her unborn baby. Photos BY Christine W. wanjala 

Betty Nakiru says a nurse in the maternity wing maltreated her and even solicited for airtime as the mother was in labour. This resulted in her leaving the hospital with a dead son who she had been constantly told was all right. She shares her story.

“I wish I had never gone to that hospital and someone else had attended to me on that day,” says Nakiru in a voice suffused with regret.
On the midmorning of March 21, Nakiru, a police woman attached to Lugazi Police Station felt contractions and set off for the hospital where she had been going for antenatal check-up. There was some slight bleeding, but the mother of four was not alarmed. “I always bled a little during the births of my other children,” she says.

The midwife who examined her told her the baby was all right but also pointed out that she was in early labour and advised Nakiru to go and return later.
She heeded and only returned to the hospital around 4pm when the contractions intensified. It was another midwife Betty Nalumansi, the in-charge of the Maternity wing, who examined her.

Nakiru remembers Nalumansi being ever so kind and assuring her the baby was all right. “The only concern she had was the bleeding but I told her my history of bleeding in labour. She told me she would send someone to administer a drip,” she shares.

The “somebody” was the third midwife to attend to Nakiru at the hospital that day. Nakiru remembers her uniform to be a light pink dress although she did not get her name.

According to Nakiru, the first drip went pretty quickly and the nurse let her know she would be delivering her baby soon. “She checked for the heartbeat and said all was all right. I could also feel the baby’s movements,” continues Nakiru.

By the time the fourth midwife came, Nakiru was in the throes of full blown labour and thought this was the person to see her through the delivery. Instead, she says the midwife curtly asked her for airtime. “I was in terrible pain and I did not have any money on me so I told her to call my mother,” she says.

Nakiru’s 50-year-old mother rushed to the side of her only surviving child’s bed with some money which she held out to this midwife who never accepted the note. Nakiru remembers her instead ordering the old lady to go and purchase the airtime. “But my mother does not understand Luganda so she just stood there with the money,” she said.

It is what happens next that has her convinced money or the lack of it had everything to do with what happened to her unborn baby that day. She suspects the nurse expected a bit more money and was infuriated when all that was available was a paltry Shs10, 000. Her voice gets raspy as if her throat suddenly went dry as she describes what happened next.

Agonising moment
“She first shoved a hand roughly inside me. Then she took a large wad of cotton and shoved it up my birth canal. I was in terrible pain,” she says. Nakiru’ s pain cries and loud screams filled the ward but the nurse only ordered her to get on all fours and rest on the bed with her rear pointing upwards.

“I felt like pushing at this time but she ordered me not to. I kept telling her I felt like pushing but she warned me not to even try,” narrates Nakiru. Her voice grows ever quieter as the interview progresses, and her eyes are now permanently fixed on her hands which are on her lap.

Nakiru’s mother who wandered in was surprised and asked her why she was in that position. Even the nurse in pink was baffled by this development, but just stood by trying her best to follow what appeared to be a more senior colleague’s orders.

According to Nakiru’ s story, the midwife then disappeared for another 15 minutes during which Nakiru was valiantly bearing the pain and fighting the urge to push. When she reappeared, it was to prod Nakiru a little before declaring to the other nurse in pink that,“Yaafiridwa dda omwana (She lost the baby earlier).”


She buried her son on what would have been his second day of life and despite still being weak, she insisted on travelling all the way to Karamoja with her baby. The death certificate issued by Kawolo Hospital signed March 22, says Nakiru’s child was born dead as the umbilical cord was twisted around the neck. It is the same explanation the midwife gave albeit wordlessly. “When my husband and sister- in- law asked her why the baby had died, she just held up the umbilical cord,” says Nakiru.

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