Scared, in pain and out of options, Kebuile Morapedi took to social media in August.
“I need help. I’ve lodged a complaint at the clinic, but still nothing. I have two children who are three-years-old and I’m still young. I don’t have money for a lawyer.”
Along with her desperate plea were photographs showing her right arm in various stages of infection. (Health-e has chosen not to show these images due to the graphic nature.)
In December 2022, Morapedi from Thaba Nchu in the Free State received the Depo-Provera contraceptive injection. This is routine, the 27-year-old has been getting this injection every four months for the past three years.
“The injection was the same as usual, the nurse was wearing gloves, and the injection was not (previously) used.”
But this time things didn’t go according to plan.
“My arm and entire hand were swollen within four hours of the injection. I returned to the [mobile] clinic five days later. I found the same nurse who administered the injection,” Morapedi recalls. Residents of Zone 4 in Thaba Nchu don’t have a standalone clinic, they rely on a mobile clinic for services.
“The nurse said it was an infection and she gave me antibiotics and allergex. But the problem grew worse each day. My arm had wounds and swollen scars as if I was burnt,” she says.
Two weeks after the initial injection, in January 2023, the infection worsened. Morapedi went to Dr James Moroka Hospital, a public facility in Thaba Nchu. But she was turned away.
“They said I couldn’t bring myself to hospital because the same clinic I went to for my injection was supposed to refer me to the hospital, so I went home. That same night I was taken back to the hospital, this time by an ambulance and I got admitted,” she says.
What would happen next is a blur. Morapedi says she was transferred to Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital in Bloemfontein. From there she was moved to National Hospital and then on to Universitas Academic Hospital.
She vaguely recalls waking up in Pelonomi Hospital in March of 2023, crying and in pain.
“I was hallucinating and it was like I was losing my mind. Even the nurses couldn’t believe me when I was telling them how I ended up having the swollen arm,” she says.
It wasn’t until April that she was finally able to go home. She has been in and out of hospital since then.
One of the photos her arm looks red and swollen. Another image shows Morapedi’s arm looking like it’s been stripped of its flesh. In another photo her arm is thin and blackened.
“Now I’m supposed to decide if I amputate the entire arm because I don’t have enough skin due to cutting at the hospital and I was told that there’s not enough blood circulation on my arm,” she says.
Foul play suspected
Morapedi feels betrayed by a health system she trusted.
“The nurse was not helpful to me, even when I went back the following day to show her my swollen arm. She seemed so uncaring.”
According to private medical practitioner Dr Andy de Wilde the wounds endured by Morapedi could’ve been caused by a needle or a wrong injection technique. “The medicine used in injection cannot paralyse the arm. I think if the victim can explain how she was injected the cause of her problem can be found,” says de Wilde.
Now Morapedi wants justice.
“I have lost so much: I wasn’t able to register for my studies and my twins nearly lost me. I want to sue the department for negligence.
“How can that happen to me only if there’s nothing wrong with the injection?”
Advocacy group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has visited Morapedi. Coordinator Kebotsang Shuping says they are trying to help her. “We saw her story on social media and we arranged to meet. We will try to mediate between her and the provincial department of health,” she says.
“TAC is planning to have a meeting in September with both MEC and department’s legal head so they can see conditions that Morapedi was left to endure. We will announce after that what will happen, all we want to see happening is justice for her.”
Meanwhile the Department of Health in the Free State aid it will investigate. Health MEC Mathabo Leeto referred Health-e News to the spokesperson Mondli Mvambi.
Mvambi says the department will contact Morapedi and establish fact-finding but has not provided an update on this case. – Health-e News