After 14 years of agony and hopelessness the family of Dr John Ondeko has been awarded Sh47 million as compensation for medical negligence. Their son’s brain was damaged after botched surgery.
Once a bubbly young man, Jacob Oluochi today is a shell of his former self. He cannot grasp instructions and the family wonders if he will ever be independent.
Occasionally, he asks his parents where his friends are and whether he will ever marry and have children.
Hoping beyond hope, the family has taken him back to school so that he can learn simple maths. They were asked to discontinue him as he keeps losing focus.
His dreams of wanting to study medicine have vanished.
Ondeko’s son, then age 17, underwent minor corrective nasal surgery on February 11, 2005. He came out of the theatre with hypoxic brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. This was attributed to medical negligence.
Until February 8, 2005, Jacob was fine. He enjoyed playing basketball at St Mary’s School, where he was a Form 4 student.
But he suffered a nasal injury while playing. He was admitted to Nairobi Hospital for surgery.
He went in fine, but came out with a brain damage. This led to a lawsuit filed by his father against Dr Praxedes Okutoyi, Dr Chimmy Omamo and the Kenya Hospital Association.
The Kenya Hospital Association manages Nairobi Hospital.
The suit papers says carelessness, negligence and reckless execution of the surgery led to brain damage. They only noticed when the head was being unwrapped after the surgery. His lips were blue and he had no pulse. He was immediately resuscitated and admitted to the ICU, where he stayed for about two months.
Dr Okutoyi, who at the time was the paediatric anesthetist, is accused of failing to carry out a complete history and physical examination of the patient before administering anaesthesia.
Nairobi Hospital was called a medical institution with inadequate systems of work.
Ondeko says the alarm mechanism did not give a warning when his son was slipping into danger.
In her defence, Dr Okutoyi said the procedure she applied was within the scope of professional practice. She laid the blame squarely on the hospital’s equipment for failing to give an alarm.
“The alarm on the machine is meant to work as an early warning to enable the team to arrest the situation early and failure of machine cannot be shifted to humans, especially in a five-minute procedure,” she said.
She urged court not to punish doctors, because that kind of action will dissuade medical students from wanting to pursue the noble profession.
The surgeon (Dr Omamo) said the procedure was very short and should not appreciate central cyanosis (bluish colour for lack of oxygen), because his mouth was covered.
Once she started her procedure, she was not concentrating on the beeping sound, she said.
But yesterday Justice George Odunga found one of the two doctors and the hospital liable for the injuries.
The judge said, “I find that the doctor and the hospital jointly and severally liable for the injuries occasioned to the patient.”
The judge exonerated Dr Omamo, whom he said was not liable for the injury the boy suffered.
He directed Dr Okutoyi and the hospital to pay Jacob Sh43,460,000 as general damage for pain, suffering and loss of earnings.
The judge further awarded Sh1,071,080 to Jacob as special damages, and Sh1,000,000 to Ondeko, the father, and the same to Dr Margaret, the mother.
He also awarded another Sh1 million being hospital costs.