Woman’s intestines cut in botched procedure

By Confidente Reporter

A young mother of two,  who underwent a uterus cleaning procedure after she suffered a miscarriage two years ago, was left severely disabled and bedridden after the doctors at Swakopmund State Hospital somehow pulled out and cut off most of her intestines.

The now 30-year-old Roman Roman says after a four-month pregnancy she experienced a spontaneous abortion (a miscarriage) late in 2017 and was advised to go for the uterus cleaning procedure at Swakopmund State Hospital. The procedure is common. Doctors use it to diagnose and treat conditions of the uterus, for example heavy bleeding, or to clean the lining of the uterus.

Roman says she was taken into the operating theatre at around 10h00 on the day in question and placed under anesthetic. She woke up many hours later in severe and unusual pain, having been in the operating theatre until around 15h00 that day, only to learn that she had been in emergency surgery for several hours while unconscious.

“The doctor [who performed the emergency surgery] did not even tell my family anything. My family was there when I came out of surgery and I was in severe pain. I couldn’t understand why. My sister asked what happened, and the doctor said only ‘There was a mistake.’”

They were told that during the uterus cleaning, “the small intestines of the bowels came out” and that the surgeon on duty thought it was part of the umbilical cord left behind in the uterus. They allegedly tugged at it and pulled the intestines out, but upon realizing their mistake they apparently just cut out large parts of her small intestine.

“They said I would recover soon and I was sent to Katutura State Hospital, where I had to undergo further surgery as soon as I arrived there as they had to open the wound to see what was going on,” a tearful Roman explained.

She said the doctors in Windhoek were puzzled, because there was no indication in her health passport of the diagnosis or the operation performed on her, and they were apparently not provided with any medical records or information by the surgeon/s involved in the “botched operation”.

Roman says when surgeons re-opened the wound in Windhoek it was found that only around 50cm of Roman’s intestines were left. The rest had been cut out. The small intestine of humans is typically about 6 metres long and the large intestine is about 1.5 metres.

Moreover, Roman said the operation was undertaken without her consent or that of any family member, although several family members and her fiancé were said to be present at the hospital during the initial uterus cleaning procedure.

Roman is now unable to walk long distances, to sit or even to lie down for very long. Life has been hard since that day. Despite having to eat almost constantly to maintain her health, she cannot hold food down for long.

The private doctors are very expensive and say she is starved for vitamins because despite having to eat constantly her intestines cannot take up enough nutrients. But she is unable to work as a result of the injuries and she is now reliant on her family and a disability grant to meet her and the children’s needs.

“My life is not normal,” says the once energetic mother in a soft and barely audible voice, “I can’t eat normally; food cannot stay inside. I have to eat often but there’s no vitamins in my body. I have clots in my blood and I have to drink these tablets, so my blood is thin. Sometimes the blood just comes out of my mouth and ears.”

Roman says she spent two weeks in the ICU at Katutura in 2017 and that the doctors from Swakopmund did not forward her medical records to Windhoek. She said the doctors who operated on her in Windhoek were shocked at what had happened.

She was told that had Swakopmund State Hospital sent her to Windhoek immediately for specialist care, instead of cutting her intestines out, the specialist doctors there could possibly have saved the situation as there was still a six-hour grace period in which they could have acted.

Roman, who is mostly housebound since the ordeal at Swakopmund State Hospital, and her fiancé Heinrich have since turned to the Ombudsman for help, but they were eventually referred to the Health Professionals Council of Namibia (HPCNA) to raise any concerns about potential medical malpractice.

Correspondence seen by Confidente shows that Roman set out her case in detail to the HPCNA in November 2017. She says they have not yet had any reply and do not know which way to turn for justice or help. Officials at the HPCNA also did not respond to questions sent by Confidente to their legal department last week.