By Adesida Adewumi MD
Exactly a year after, Judith’s elder brother, Austin, met me in the hospital premises and reminded of the loss of his lovely sister.
The story was a very sorrowful one for me. To this day the memory lingers…below is the account of what happened to Judith, a promising 19 years old girl.
I was inside my consulting room when a 19 year old girl walked in with a protruding tummy. She was looking depressed. I ushered her to a seat. After introducing herself she told me, “Doctor, I want an abortion, I am not ready for it.”
I was a little bit shocked.
“Are you not married?” I asked.
“No”, she replied
“So who was responsible for the pregnancy?”
“A man in our neighbourhood, doctor” she answered.
“Did he rape you?” I asked further.
“So when was your last menstrual period?
“Six months ago”.
“Six months ago?” I screamed, “you did not realise on time you were pregnant or you knew but something upset you now about the father for you to want to punish him by aborting the baby?” I asked curiously.
“No”, was her quiet response
I questioned her further “Did he deny the ownership of the pregnancy?”. She said no. “Do you realise that abortion is illegal in Nigeria?” I conscientised her further. She said yes. “You know both you and the doctor that abort the baby for you, can go to jail for years?” I emphatically highlighted. She said yes. Her answers were just yes or no most times. I was frustrated.
Then she suddenly started explaining that she did not realise she was pregnant for six months. She said she found out a week ago.
“Okay, what of your menses, were you seeing it? What of your tummy protruding? You didn’t know too?” I asked
“Doctor, sometimes I miss my period like that. I once missed my period for a year before and I was not pregnant. So I thought i was just having another episode of that, besides my tummy is naturally big. So i did not realise l could be pregnant.”
“Okay, why do you now want to terminate the innocent life.? ” I pinched her soul.
She answered “I am not ready now, doctor. I want to go further in my study. I am an admission seeker. For the past 3 years I have passed my WAEC exam, it is JAMB that is still delaying me before this incident occured. Besides I discussed with my brother he was of the opinion that I am not ready for this now.”
“Where is your brother? ” l asked.
“He is outside”.
“Call him for me I will like to talk to him.” I told her.
She stood up, opened the door and called her brother. He came in, greeted me and introduced himself “
I pointed him to the second chair in the consulting room. “Are you aware of what your younger sister wants to do?” I asked him. He said yes.
“Doctor it is only me and her that are remaining, our father and mother died last year. The families have abandoned us. I am a 200 level student in the university, self-sponsored,so doctor we cannot afford this pregnancy now.”
I turned to Judith, “so why did you not avoid any sexual intimacy with any man since you were not ready for any pregnancy?”
“Why did you not use condom since you cannot abstain from premarital sex?”
Well I couselled both of them against committing the abortion. I told them about the serious complications physically, psychologically, spiritually and socially (and legally) that could arise. They agreed with me and sounded convinced. They said their thank you and left my consulting room gratefully. I prescribed her folic acid, gave her scan and other tests to do and gave her one week appointment. I never knew they only pretended to listen to me.
A week later when I was expecting to see them back, a junior doctor working with me in the hospital during call just called me that I should run down to the theatre they just brought a lady bleeding seriously. The doctor further told me that there was body of a baby hanging in her vagina and the head of the baby was trapped inside her womb. I rushed down. By the time I got there, I saw Austin, Judith’s elder brother, crying on the corridor of the theatre. I rushed inside. Lo and behold, Judith was the one on the operating table in pool of her blood with the body of the baby hanging in her vagina and the head trapped inside her womb. There were a lot of injuries around the neck of the lifeless trapped baby. I asked for what happend? She quickly told me that after they left my office that day, they went to one auxiliary nurse in one chemist who gave her six tablets of a drug. The nurse told her to pass three tablets inside her vagina and she should swallow the remaining three tablets. She took them as prescribed and for one week she had been having tummy pain and bleeding at home. She finally pushed out the body of the baby after five days but since the head refused to come out and she started bleeding the more, they rushed to the hospital.
Immediately I tried some manoeuvres to get the trapped head out without success. We scanned the tummy quickly. We realised the baby had a very big head, what we call HYDROCEPHALUS. Well in this kind of situation one of the things we could do as a last resort to save the patient is to separate the body of the dead baby from the big head trapped inside the womb then do operation to remove the trapped head from her womb.
Her elder brother signed consent after counselling them on the option. We did the operation and was successful. We gave her six bags of blood during and after the operation. She was stable. I gave order that her vital signs should be monitored closely and all her treatment drugs should go on well. I assigned a doctor to her. I was calling to ask the doctor I assigned to her from time to time, he said she was stable and recuperating well from anesthesia. I came two times myself to check on her. Her vital signs were stable. The following morning, my attention was called by the assigned doctor that they just noticed she suddenly started gasping for breath. I rushed down. All attempts to resuscitate her failed, and she breathed her last.
I saw her brother watching us from the window, he started weeping as he saw me shake my head after several efforts. He started wailing and rolling on the floor of the ward. The worst had happened. Everything had become still. The white cloth went above the head. All gadgets removed. The mortuary attendants were informed. I went straight into my consulting room. I wept bitterly for five minutes and “I warned this lady just a week ago o” kept echoing in my head. She said she was not ready to keep pregnancy for now but now she would never be ready again for life. She had slipped into eternity, I doubt if she was ready for that also!!!
After recovering from my own tears, I went to look for her elder brother on the corridor. I brought him inside my consulting room to console him. He looked at me sorrowfully and regretfully said “and doctor you warned us o. My sister has gone for ever just like that. She is the only family I had left. Judith!!! tell daddy and mummy you have decided to leave me only to suffer in this world.” I was silent to allow him mourn so that he could feel better.
After like 20 minutes with me inside the consulting room he was a little consoled. He told me he would like to go home to inform his uncles so that they could prepare for the burial. As he was going out of my consulting room, I became overwhelmed with three major lessons from what had just happened to Judith.
One, learn to listen to the advice of your medical doctor. Don’t think you are smarter than your professional doctor who has advised you rightly and correctly. Don’t lose your life prematurely. You have only one, and there is replacement if it is lost through your wrong decision.
Secondly, sex is sacred. It is meant only for marriage. When you toy with sex and sees it as something you can play with outside marriage, be also ready for the consequences. Pre-marital and extra-marital sex escapades are dangerous. The consequences are huge including death.
Finally, if you have decided to toy with pre-marital and extra-marital sex and it has landed you in pregnancy out of wedlock, please don’t abort the baby. Avoid murder of the innocent baby, because in the bid to do this, you may end up killing yourself and facing eternity unprepared.
▪︎ Dr. Adewumi is a Family Medicine consultant, based in Kano. Follow him on Facebook at “FROM INSIDE MY CONSULTING ROOM “; his health page on YOUTUBE and INSTAGRAM @doctorhealtheducation; on Twitter @doctorhealthed1; and on WhatsApp at: +234 (0)806-864-9694. He gives daily education on health plus free daily consultation.