Looking very beautiful and unassuming, four-year-old Adamu Rukayya cuts the image of a vibrant, young girl. And as expected of children of her age, she would always join her friends in the neighbourhood to go to school and play around the house during their leisure.
But things took a horrible turn for Rukayya on October 6, 2016 when she took ill and her parents took her to a private hospital where she was (allegedly) wrongly diagnosed and treated for a wrong ailment. Unknown to her parents, that was the beginning of a pitiable experience.
The wrong diagnosis, according to her uncle, who identified himself simply as Abubakar, led to serious complications such that one of her legs had to be amputated. And since then, she moves about with the aid of crutches.
Notably, one question the little girl had been asking everyone who cared to listen to her is, “Where is my leg?” Abubakar added that little Rukayya, who apparently does not have full understanding of what had become of her leg, still tells everyone that she wants her leg back.
The parents of the little girl had become too depressed to talk about the incident, but Abubakar in an emotion-filled narrative, told Saturday PUNCH that when Rukayya complained of headache that fateful Thursday, the parents simply took her to Salama hospital, which was like their family hospital.
According to him, the girl was treated, she was given some drugs and was discharged to go home. But two days later, her health condition was worsening, thus, they took her back to the hospital and she was admitted.
Abubakar, whose account was further amplified by the founder of Global Initiative for Women and Children, Mrs. Hafsat Mohammed-Baba, who had taken the matter up and shared the story on the organisation’s Facebook page, explained that when the girl was admitted, the parents were told that transfusion would be done through one of the veins in her leg because they said they could not find any (vein) on her hands.
But after the transfusion, he said the leg became swollen and when they raised the concern, they were simply told to take the girl home, raise the leg affected up and administer “ice therapy” on her. According to Abubakar, the transfusion done through the girl’s leg was the beginning of the tragedy.
Mohammed-Baba said, “When that didn’t work, Rukayya was taken back to the hospital on October 12 where the parents met the hostile staff, and when they examined the leg again, they found out they could not handle the case anymore, so they (the parents) were referred to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital at Shika.”
She explained that the girl was immediately taken to the emergency room of the hospital, where the doctor in charge examined the leg and told the parents the leg was already infected and might be amputated to prevent the infection from spreading. He however assured them the hospital would do its best to salvage the situation.
Unfortunately, there was no improvement, thus, the following day, the leg was amputated.
Meanwhile, according to the test conducted on the girl at Salama hospital, the parents were told that Rukayya is a sickle cell carrier, thus when the parents got to ABUTH, they also told the doctors on duty the girl was a “sickle cell carrier”, thus, she was admitted among other SS patients.
But by the time another test was conducted on her to ascertain her genotype, it was revealed that she is AS and not SS as they were told at Salama hospital.
Abubakar lamented that if not for the wrong diagnosis in the hospital, the little girl would still have her two legs intact. He stressed that till date, the family had not heard from the hospital, and that instead of showing concern and taking responsibility for their action, they had even denied giving the girl blood transfusion on her leg.
Since then, the little girl has been constrained to use crutches and she has resumed schooling, but not without asking for the whereabouts of her leg.
Worried by the development and with no clear understanding of what happened, Rukayya, who is in Nursery Two, keeps asking her parents why they took her to the hospital to have her leg “removed,” thus, she keeps asking for her leg, especially when she sees her friends playing around the compound or when she sees them walking the way she used to.
When our correspondent spoke to Rukayya on the phone on Friday morning, she sounded feeble, and all she could say was “Hello…my leg.”
“She makes us cry, but we leave everything to God,” Abubakar said, adding, “Up till now, we’ve not heard anything from Salama hospital, and they knew about what happened. The little girl has resumed school and she uses crutches now. When they brought the crutches to her initially, she said she wouldn’t use them. She said she wanted her leg back. Sometimes she asks, where is my leg, and that makes everybody cry.
“Salama hospital is the cause of this, but we have been admonishing the parents to take heart. The hospital is not very far from their house, but they couldn’t even come to see the girl or show some sympathy, maybe because they know the parents are not rich and they cannot make noise about it. That is why they are not showing concern. But we appreciate the founder of GIWAC for taking up the matter.”
Responding to the allegations of wrong diagnosis, the Manager of Salama hospital, Mr. Kehinde Adetunbi, told our correspondent on the phone that the information being circulated about the incident on the social media was false. He however directed the doctor who attended to the girl in the hospital to talk to our correspondent.
The doctor, who would not disclose his name, said the blood transfusion was on the girl’s right hand and not on her leg. He maintained that the girl is a sickle cell carrier, as revealed by the test conducted on her in the hospital in 2014.
“I was the one that admitted and referred her. She had been admitted several times in the past with recurrent history of low blood level, because she is sickle cell. When she was brought in, she had 16 per cent blood level, which was life-threatening. That was why she had to be transfused. The reason for the referral was that she was having abdominal pain. And that is what is on her referral note.
“By the time they got to Shika, they noticed that she had osteolysis of the leg. They wanted to do a debridement (the removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound) and the father refused. So, it took them three weeks before they went back for the surgery. By the time they went back, the leg had become gangrenous (a type of necrosis caused by a critically insufficient blood supply), so they had to do a full amputation.
“It is not unusual for SS carrier to have occlusion (blockage) of blood vessel, especially the veins and arteries that supply blood to the leg. What they did was a distortion of medical information possibly to get public sympathy. These are known complications of sickle cell.”
On why the hospital had not contacted the patient since the incident, Adetunbi said the hospital was not in the know of what happened eventually and that it was later they got to know through the social media that she had been amputated.
Meanwhile, Mohammed-Baba said her organisation had filed a petition on behalf of Rukkaya to the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai, the state Commissioner of Police, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, the elected members representing her constituency (Basawa constituency) in the state Assembly and the chairman of her local government (Sabon Gari).
She also called on concerned bodies to look into the case, while calling on the Nigerian Medical Association to set up a committee to investigate the incident.
“If the hospital is disciplined accordingly, it will serve as a deterrent to others because people do anything and get away with it. All (private) clinics should be checked to see whether they have licence to operate or not, because it has to do with human life.
“There could be other victims of such out there, but we know about this because this man came out to talk. That is why I want to follow it to its logical conclusion. We will take up the matter. And that girl deserves adequate compensation.”
As of the time of filing this report, our correspondent had yet to get the response of the state government as the media aide to the Kaduna State governor did not pick his calls.
Also, effort to get the state Commissioner for Health was not successful as of press time.