Kenya: Millions Paid for Surgery Gone Awry Hardly Offers Solace to Woman in Pain

Grace was once a young, bubbly woman full of expectations. She had just returned to the country in 1995, having qualified as an optometrist at Austin University in the UK.

She was married, worked for two firms and hoped to open her own practice as an optician, someday.

However, five years later, in March 2000, she developed an abscess in her anal region. She consulted her gynaecologist.

When the problem recurred yet again she opted to see another gynaecologist who referred her to Dr Jonardan Patel who diagnosed her with Fistula and a perianal cyst.

Dr Patel assured her that the problem was nothing to worry about and that she would be okay after an operation.

SECOND SURGERY

After the first surgery the problem persisted and she was forced to undergo a second one.

This marked the start of her woes; Grace lost stool control and started soiling her underwear. She was only 28 years old at the time.

When she went back to Dr Patel he told her that the problem was her diet and had nothing to do with the operation, an explanation she refused to buy.

Grace sought a second opinion from a Dr Mburugu, who told her that her sphincters were damaged.

Dr Mburugu referred her to Prof Robin Phillips at the Ano Rectal Surgery Department at St Mark's Hospital, Harrow, in the UK for examination.

SPHINCTER DAMAGE

Dr Mburugu also advised her to see Mr Alastair Windsor, a consultant surgeon at the Prince Grace Hospital in London.

Reports from the two hospitals showed she had sphincter damage following a fistula surgery and had been rendered incontinent to soft stool and gas.

They both recommended a third surgery to improve the external sphincter injury, explaining that the internal one was totally disrupted.

They also said long-term improvement was significantly poor. Another doctor from Nairobi Hospital also confirmed her anal injury.

Sadly, her sex life was consequently affected, which had an effect on her marriage.

She could not work as an optometrist any more or do other things like playing all sorts of games.

LONG WAIT

Grace moved to court in May 2003 and had to wait for 16 years to get justice. She is now 46 years old.

And on March 4, Lady Justice Lucy Njuguna granted her Sh21,535,459 compensation and cost of future surgery as well as air travel.

"The court finds that Dr Patel being an expert in anal-rectal surgery failed to exercise a reasonable degree of skill and knowledge in the surgery he performed on the plaintiff," ruled Justice Njuguna.

The judge added: "He was the last person to operate on the plaintiff and he cannot escape liability."

The judge pointed out that as a result of the botched surgery the quality of her social, family and professional life had been significantly curtailed.

Ms Njuguna said due to her worsening incontinence, she got multiple urinary tract infections hence stood the risk of developing cancer of the bladder. The court heard that she lost desire for sex, lost a job and suffered agony as well as embarrassment when in public places due to her condition.

During the hearing of the case, Dr Patel explained that doctors did not cure; they could only treat. Despite his explanations he was ordered to pay Grace the said amount as compensation for negligence.

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