The Rwanda Medical Council and the Police are investigating a case involving a woman who claimed she was stitched with three gloves, a syringe and cotton in her uterus
after under going cesarean operation as she was giving birth.
On the morning of April 1, 2008, Zawadi Murekatete, 20, a Congolese refugee at Gihembe Refugee Camp, went into labour. She was rushed to the camp’s health centre but was immediately transferred to Byumba Hospital since she had to undergo cesarean which the camp health centre could not perform.
In an interview with The Chronicles, Murekatete said that she underwent operation and gave birth to a healthy baby but doctors instructed her not to move until when she was told to do so. Narrating her ordeal, she said; “When I left the theatre, my stomach started swelling immediately; I was feeling a lot of pain. The following day I went to the toilet, the stitches went loose and my stomach slit open; blood, puss and some liquid started flowing out of me.”
She was rushed to the theatre where she was re-stitched but her stomach kept swelling and she had to undergo another operation on April 5. “I was discharged but I kept seeing puss in my urine. I consulted the doctors at the camp’s health centre who referred me back to Byumba Hospital,” she laments.
According to Murekatete, a certain doctor whose name is yet to be identified, refused to admit her and claimed that she was in good health. “At one point, the same doctor referred me to a psychiatrist saying that I am suffering from trauma. I decided to go back to the camp where I remained under the care of medics of the camp’s health centre,” she added.
Murekatete lived with pain for three years until January 5, 2012, when a piece of cotton dropped out of her as she was urinating. Due to the bad health situation she was in, camp doctors decided to transfer her to Kigali Teaching Hospital (CHUK) without authorization from Byumba Hospital, the district hospital. According to Dr Martin Nyundo, the Medical Director at CHUK, the woman was admitted without Byumba authorisation because she was having a verification to have treatment under the UNHCR health insurance from the camp. Nyundo told The Chronicles, "In normal government hospital procedures we treat those patients from the districts that have been transferred to us by the particular district hospitals. But for her case she was just like any other private patients we receive or those on other private insurances with whom we partner and UNHCR is part”
Murekatete claims that the three gloves, a syringe and cotton were intentionally left in her uterus by doctors from Byumba hospital. However according to Dr Nyundo, it is medically impossible for an individual to be inhabited by external agents within the uterus for such a long period of time. He says, "As far as human anatomy is concerned, it is impossible to habit these materials for that long and besides even if they had been left within the uterus it is unconceivable how they might have travelled to the vagina from where they were disposed off. The canal from the vagina to the uterus (cervix) is such a small slit through which only micro materials can maneuver not such complex material as gloves and the rest" However, Byumba Hospital denied being responsible of the shocking professional irresponsibility or malice. “There is no way a doctor would do that, also, it is important to note that a person would not live for three years with such items in her uterus,” said Dr Fred Muhairwe the head of Byumba Hospital.
Speaking to The Chronicles, the Director-General of CHUK, Dr. Theobald Hategekimana confirmed that indeed the items were extracted from the woman’s insides. “The pieces were found in her vagina not the uterus, also Murekatete had a severe infection in her womb which we are also treating,” says Hategekimana.
The Director-General in charge of Communication at the Rwanda Biomedical Center, Mr. Arthur Asiimwe told The Chronicles that the Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho established a committee to investigate the matter. The committee was headed by Dr. Eugene Ngonga together with other medical officials from within Rwanda and other countries to look into the issue.
In a telephone interview with The Chronicles, Mr. Asiimwe says that so far, the technical investigation into the matter have been included and there is no link between the doctors involved in Murekatete' operations and the external agents found in Murekatete. He notes, "The medical investigation report has been concluded and it is clear that there is no link between the materials and the operations that Murekatete underwent". He adds, “It is most likely the materials were inserted from the outside into the woman's vagina not during the operation". Dr Ngoga also claims that “There is no connection from where these items were found and the uterus; also the types of gloves that were found in her vagina are not used in the theatre”. He adds that the gloves found in Murekatete were examining gloves while those used in the theatre are surgical gloves.
Dr. Ngoga also pointed out that during cesarean; a surgeon does not need a syringe – which clears the surgeon from being responsible. However according to a doctor at CHUK who closely followed the case, Murekatete said she was undergoing her normal menstrual periods which according to him is an impossibility if the materials had been in the vagina for such a long period of time”. The doctor who preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter adds, "She could have seen these materials during her periods"
Asked if Murekatete will be able to give birth again, Dr Ngoga says that during the treatment at CHUK, it was discovered that one of her fallopian tubes was damaged. Fallopian tubes are the two long, thin tubes that connect to a woman's uterus (one on each side). In a woman's body the tube allows passage of the egg from the ovary to the uterus.
“She still can give birth with one remaining fallopian tube,” says Ngoga. Also interested in the matter however, the police spokesperson Theos Badege told The Chronicles that investigations are still ongoing. He said, "The investigations are still ongoing and nothing important can be published at present". Badege promises that the police will soon be publishing the findings of who is responsible, when and how the materials found their way into Murekatete's vagina.