Family seeking answers over child's 'mysterious' death in hospital

Nicholas Kitonyi

Mr Nicholas Kitonyi, the father of Baby Francis, at the Machakos County Referral Hospital on October 31, 2023. Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

Photo credit: Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The six-year-old was in high spirit when medics cleared him to undergo the operation on Wednesday last week.
  • About 30 minutes later, the family was informed that the child had been admitted at the ICU after developing complications following the surgery.

Had Nicholas Kitonyi known that a small swelling on his son’s left wrist would cost his life, then he would not have sought medication to have it removed.

Mr Kitonyi's family is devastated after Baby Francis was pronounced dead eight days after he slipped into a coma following a minor operation to remove the cyst at the Machakos County Referral Hospital.

As burial plans commenced on Thursday, November 2, the baby's parents and relatives are demanding that the Level 5 hospital be investigated for suspected medical negligence.

The six-year-old was in high spirits when medics cleared him to undergo the operation on Wednesday last week. The parents were not prepared for what awaited them. 

About 30 minutes after he was wheeled to the theatre, Mr Kitonyi and his relatives were shocked to learn that his son had been admitted at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after developing complications following the surgery.

“My heart sank on Saturday when a junior medic told us that we should pull the plug as he had succumbed,” Mr Kitonyi told the Nation in an interview. 

The bombshell marked the start of an emotional turmoil for Mr Kitonyi’s family. On Sunday, a senior hospital official reportedly revealed that Baby Francis had indeed died on or before Friday.

Story suddenly changed

As Mr Kitonyi and his relatives struggled to come to terms with the bad news, amid pressure for answers from the extended family members, the story suddenly changed. The medics said the child still alive.

“They asked us to buy him yoghurt and juice,” Mr Kiyonyi said.

But the family remained skeptical and asked more questions.

A handwritten report seen by the Nation identifies the anaesthesiologist and critical care nurse who attended to the baby.

According to the report, the patient had developed cardiac arrest after the operation.

“We also explained that the patient was still critically ill, currently needing inotropic support,” reads the report, which was signed by a medic at the hospital, Mr Kitonyi and his wife, Christine Kyalo.  

Then on Monday, Machakos County Health Executive Daniel Yumbya sought to speak to the child's parents, but the meeting ended on a bad note.

Contradicting reports

Mr Kitonyi and his close relatives wanted to know why medics gave contradicting reports after his son had been in a coma for days.

Senior county government officials, hospital officials and medics remained mum, citing professional ethics.

Shortly before medics pronounced the baby dead on Thursday, Dr Yumbya told reporters that the boy was still fighting for his life at the ICU.

He denied claims that the hospital had kept the family in the dark and he did not rule out a case of medical negligence.

“The family has been fully briefed and we sympathize with the situation because they brought in a patient who was not in critical condition and an episode has occurred,” he said.

He revealed that the hospital had registered a complaint with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council to investigate the case for possible medical negligence.