Having a child can be the happiest time of a person's life,
but not for an expectant mother who develops a life threatening condition
medically known as preeclampsia.
This was part of the testimony by Doreen Ruth Akunu, a mother
who nearly lost her life and baby to this condition.
Akunu, now an anti-preeclampsia campaigner spoke out on
Friday as part of the global awareness day against preeclampsia.
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conceived around …..
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According to Akunu, not
knowing the signs of preeclampsia can be deadly. Pregnant for the first
time, everything proceeded smoothly in the first months of pregnancy.
Then she noticed
her ankles and feet had swollen, she had constant headache and her whole body
Very soon, a
person who weighed 49 abruptly jumped to 89Kgs, the hypertensive drugs that she
had been initiated on seemed not to be working until she was referred to Mulago
National Referral Hospital in Kampala.
has become common in Uganda, over taking bleeding which was previously the most
common cause of maternal mortality.
Of the about 6000 maternal deaths happening in
Uganda, about 550 are due to the complication, according to experts.
facilities such as Kawempe National Referral Hospital that exclusively handles
women related issues, the disease accounts for 20% of the death.
But, despite being a health worker, Akunu didn’t make much
sense of the abrupt swelling of the legs, severe headaches, blurred vision and
being restless until a doctor at the then Lira District hospital that has since
been elevated to a regional referral diagnosed her with the condition.
In a move that seems the norm with management of the
complication that many health workers cannot diagnose it and many others cannot
administer its most common treatment Magnesium Sulphate, Akunu couldn’t not be
helped at the national referral either. The doctors she said asked her to
continue with the medications given at the facility up country.
Desperate for solutions, she looked for a private facility
where they made it clear that they could only save her.
She speaks of the pain
of carrying a baby that wasn’t going to see light of day as doctors at Nsambya
hospital said they were to conduct a caesarean section delivery to save
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But, only weighing 800grams, without a fully developed
genitalia, no finger nails and no hair, the baby cried at birth and she
remembers the doctor saying, ‘this is God’s mercy.
This baby will be called
she watched her baby grow all her body parts in the Intensive Care Unit amidst
mocking by many who advised that she gives up as the baby had no chance of
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However, to date, as a survivor, Akunu still fears the
preeclampsia experience, 17 years later and yet Mercy has grown into a healthy
teenager awaiting to sit her Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations
at Trinity College Nabbingo.
However, while Mercy survived, Prof. Annettee Nakimuli a
senior lecturer at Makerere University who has done a lot of research on
preeclampsia says many of such children don’t survive as it affects the liver
and the brain. 5000 babies die annually as a result of their mothers developing
Nakimuli says the disorder that has to do with improper
growth of the placenta affects 5 to 8% of pregnancies and it’s most common
among women of African origin.