Treating babies with fluid in their heads  

BY: Junior Graphic


This is the second part of last week’s article on why some babies have fluid in their heads.

I believe you remember Dr Frank Nketiah Boakye, the neurosurgeon, from last week’s publication, who wanted to perform free surgeries for children with hydrocephalus. Sheila has hydrocephalus but can we get her to see him?

Dr Boakye said children with hydrocephalus should come and see him on Tuesday with blood test results.

I started making calls to the members of our team to get hold of the children who could benefit from the shunts. And I expected to see Sheila on Monday morning.

When Sheila and her mother visited the hospital on Monday, we told her mum about the opportunity to get the surgery done at a very low cost compared to what was normally charged and she agreed to go and see the doctor.

Priscilla, a nurse, assisted Sheila and her mum to have a CT (computerised tomography) scan done before they could go to see Dr Boakye. The results of the scan showed it was hydrocephalus.

When they got to the hospital, Dr Frankie was having a meeting with the team with whom he would do the surgery and couldn’t meet them personally but assigned someone to do so. It takes a whole team to get a surgery done.

There are the surgeons who open up the patient, there are scrub nurses who help in the surgery, and there are anaesthetists who put the patient to sleep for the surgery to start and watch over the patient during the surgery and after.

There are circulating nurses who run errands as the surgery is going on, perioperative nurses and critical care nurses who also help care for the patient before, during and after the surgery till the patient is stable enough to go to a general ward. It’s whole teamwork.

Priscilla persisted in the hospital, going back and forth till she got the contact person and secured a bed for Sheila

Sheila’s health insurance would expire on Friday and Dr Frankie had shifted the surgery to Friday. Health insurance ensures that the patient doesn’t have to pay money for treatment for illnesses or for hospital visits. However, it needs to be renewed once a year, or else it will expire and will not work when the patient needs it. Priscilla told me not to worry and that she would get it renewed for them. And she did.

Friday morning came and Priscilla gave me hourly updates, Sheila was going to the theatre.

The theatre is a very clean and quiet room with lots of equipment where surgeries are performed. You can’t go into the theatre with your normal clothing and shoes otherwise you will take germs in there and when surgery is done for someone, the person will end up with a very bad infection and can even die.

In the theatre, there are equipment such as ventilators (which breathe for you in case you can’t breathe on your own). Anaesthetic machine (which gives you a mixture of gases to put you to sleep for the surgery to be done), cardiac monitors (which monitor the beating of your heart, your breathing, temperature and other things) and many others. The surgical team works in the theatre and in the recovery room which is the safe place you are sent to after surgery for the team to continue to keep an eye on you.

Sheila finally came out of the theatre into the recovery room wrapped in bandages but she was stable.

Caring for children and going the extra mile is a common task for my nurses. But what Priscilla had done simply blew my mind. It was unprecedented. She didn’t have to. She wasn’t being paid for it. Yet she did it.

Dr Boakye, the radiographer, Dr Akua, and the other healthcare workers. All of them went above and beyond duty for the sake of the little girl, Sheila.

A couple of days later, I went to see Sheila at the ward. She was as cute as ever and angry. I understood her. It was the stress of a new place, the pain, the injections.

I bribed her with money which she snatched but didn’t smile. I tickled her and she laughed showing that smile that makes the sun pale in comparison. Sheila was later discharged.

After some weeks, I got a message from Priscilla on WhatsApp. It’s a picture of Sheila and a message: Sheila is in school, reading, writing and walking. The surgery was successful and she is living a normal life.


The writer is a senior specialist paediatrician

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