Marie Stopes International Australia

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Oumy – Losing a daughter

Post-partum haemorrhage causes 25% of the 358,000 global maternal deaths each year, reaching up to 60% in some countries in the developing world. The World Health Organization recognises a medicine called misoprostol as a crucial intervention in the prevention and treatment of post-partum haemorrhage but because it can also be used for abortion, it is illegal in a lot of countries. In this story, Oumy from Senegal talks about losing her daughter due to a lack of access to misoprostol.

“My daughter was called Seny. She was 26 years old and the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen. She had recently married. When she got pregnant we were all delighted. It soon turned out that something extraordinary had happened: she was carrying triplets.

“Our nightmare started when she went into labour one evening after only seven months of pregnancy. We rushed her to a hospital, but they said they couldn’t help her as there was no space. It was the same story in the second hospital. Only in the third hospital was she finally admitted. It was already late at night.

“My daughter delivered in the early morning. Three healthy girls, although severely underweight. Or so they told us anyway, because we were not allowed to see either her or the babies for a whole day. Then, at 7pm, hospital staff asked us for 50,000 francs ($89). They needed to establish her blood type, they said, and start a blood transfusion immediately.

“It was only then that we learned that she had suffered a strong haemorrhage after giving birth, and that they had left her bleeding for the whole day without taking any care of her.

“We gave them the money straight away. Hours later we were allowed to see her for the first time, but only through a window. My daughter waved to us weakly, but didn’t want to look in our direction. My stomach turned, as I just knew that something was seriously wrong with her. But we trusted the abilities of the hospital though, and left for the night. How foolish we were.

“The next morning we went back to the hospital. We waited for four hours without receiving any information. Then they told us we couldn’t see her because she was tired. Hours later still, a doctor all of a sudden summoned my older brother to his office. In this country news only gets told to men, you see.

“When my brother came out he said we should go home. I said I wanted to see my daughter first. He repeated that we should go home. I insisted on seeing her. Then he told me that she had died during the night. Alone, abandoned, without her family. That will haunt me forever.

“We buried her that same day according to Islamic tradition, and mourned for the next eight days. I was too much in shock to care for anything, so it was my sister who went back regularly to the hospital to check on the babies, who had to stay there because of their weight. Again though, my sister was only allowed to see the girls from behind a window.

“For the next four weeks, the babies remained in the hospital. Then one day a doctor called us to say we had to come and pick them up immediately. When we arrived, one baby had just died. They didn’t tell us of what, but it must have been some infection or virus. Those hospitals lack hygiene, you know.

“I think the doctor wanted the babies out of his hands quickly, so he wouldn’t be held responsible for their death. He shouldn’t have worried, because my husband didn’t want to press charges. He said it would only create a scandal, while it wouldn’t give us back either our daughter or our granddaughter.

“We had more important matters on our minds, anyway, because one of the two other babies was ill as well. She was listless, wouldn’t eat, vomited and had diarrhoea. At home she didn’t improve, so we took her to an expensive private hospital. Shortly after being admitted there, she suffered a cardiac arrest. They resuscitated her. But within hours she had a second cardiac arrest, this time fatal.

“Only the third baby, little Khadija Seny, has survived this nightmare. She is six months old now, and named after my daughter. She is full of life and has almost reached a normal weight. I pray to God almighty every day that He will not take her away from me. She is all that I have left.”

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