A Nigerian lady in Belgium, Ajima Ogbole, has demanded justice after a Belgian general hospital, AZ Sint-Jan allegedly cut off her cervix in error.
In a video shared online, Ajima also alleged that her sister-in-law, Susan Ogbole, who volunteered to be a surrogate for her family was left paralysed due to the error of the medical personnel at the hospital.
Ajima said she had visited the hospital in Bruges to seek a solution to her fertility struggles after she was diagnosed with fibroids.
She added that she was advised by a doctor to undergo a myomectomy, the surgery to take out the fibroids before trying to conceive.
Ajima said she had the surgery in November 2017 and returned for a checkup, only to be told by her doctor that her cervix couldn’t be found.
“He asked us to come back so he could put me under anaesthesia and try to find the cervix. We returned with my husband. When I woke up, I saw I had four holes on my tummy and I was wondering if it was the IUD. He was supposed to put the IUD (intrauterine device) as he felt my cervix was blocked. He later came in to tell us that he couldn’t find my cervix and so he didn’t perform the laparoscopy. He was going to refer me to KU Leuven,” she said.
“We met a professor in gynaecology, which was the best to recreate my cervix. The professor told me that, for the purpose of a pregnancy, a cervix has never been recreated and he hopes for my sake that there was a little hole through which my period will be able to flow out. So he performed investigations and did ultrasounds to see if he could see my cervix, but he couldn’t. So he ushered my husband and I back into his office.
“He explained that the cervix is a muscle that holds the weight of the baby until you’re ready to push and also protects the fetus from infection. He then told me that I couldn’t get pregnant naturally or artificially because the connection between the vagina and the uterus was gone. It was at that point we realised the intensity of the situation. My husband and I then travelled to Nigeria to consult another gynaecology professor and another fertility specialist.”
Ajima said a laparoscopy was conducted on her the second time in 2018 so as to recreate her cervix so there would be a passage through which her period flows can exit her system but the surgery was unsuccessful.
To avoid any complication from having her body absorb back her period, the doctor suggested a second procedure.
She further said, “We came back to Belgium and had an appointment with a gynaecology professor at the University of Ghent who is specialised in reconstructive surgeries. We saw him and he offered to perform surgery but it was going to be a 20 percent chance of success. By success, he meant to recreate the whole cervix and not for the purpose of getting pregnant if that was successful. I agreed. I had a laparoscopy again sometime in August 2018.
“A catheter was put for 10 days. We went back after then and he removed it. We then came back two weeks later for an IUD to be inserted. I was put under anaesthesia. And by the time I woke up, his assistant came to inform us that the surgery wasn’t successful. He was still in surgery so he couldn’t see us himself. So he gave us an appointment in two weeks to discuss what I wanted to do and also that my body absorbing back period wasn’t good for my health.
“It can lead to some complications like endometriosis or probably even cancer of the blood. And so we left and when we came back, he offered to try one more surgery. But I wasn’t so sure as my body was exhausted. And I felt a drain psychologically, physically, and emotionally. After some thought, he told me to go and think about it and tell him what I wanted. We came back and I decided to have another surgery which was somewhat successful.”
According to her, since there was no cervix to support either artificial or natural conception, multiple gynaecologists advised that she opt to have a child through surrogacy.
She said after spending sometime to look for a surrogate who must be legally qualified to bear the child for her and her man, Ajima’s sister-in-law, Susan Ogobole, who was to come to Belgium for her studies, volunteered to do that.
Ajima forwent the US due to cost considerations and went back to the hospital where her error was allegedly made.
“I began to have my period but, after a while, it stopped again. I was supporting and at the point, I had to decide my life was more important than cutting myself and twisting the hand of fate because I wanted to get pregnant by all means. We started to research the process of surrogacy. We found our best option was America. But we couldn’t afford it because it was expensive, between $150,000 and $200,000. In Belgium, surrogacy is complicated,” she said.
“It’s a grey zone and hospitals meet the law on who they take as a surrogate and who they shouldn’t. My sister-in-law here who is Susan was then coming to Belgium to study. So she offered to be our surrogate because she was resident in Belgium. It was already easy for us because, for you to be a surrogate in Belgium, you have to be legally resident in Belgium. So when she came again, we started looking for hospitals, but no hospital will take us.
“We came back to the AZ Sint-Jan in Bruges, where my error was made. After embryo creation and a week to the embryo being transferred in Susan, the hospital backed out. They said they wouldn’t be proceeding and no reason was given and we had to transfer, which we did in the first week of February and then moved back to Belgium.”
Ajima said Susan had the baby on the 15th of October 2020 by caesarean section but became paralysed later.
Speaking on her own experience, Susan said she had felt pain when her epidural was administered.
Susan also said that the pain later stopped but she started having leg spasms in the evening after she had the child. This was followed by a partial paralysis from her waist down, where she can neither defecate nor urinate by herself.
“I had the baby on the 15th of October, 2020. I opted for a caesarean and I was told I had to take an epidural. I had wanted general anaesthesia but they said in Belgium I had to take the epidural for safety. So I reluctantly obliged and signed the consent form because I didn’t want any complication to happen with the baby. So I went into the theatre and I was administered the epidural. In the process of the epidural, I felt pain on the left side of my back,” she said.
“I kept telling the doctor, ‘Oh, I feel pain.’ She kept telling me, ‘Be calm. I’m trying to get the good spot.’ She kept twisting the needle or something else. It felt like a round device. At some point, she found the point she claimed she was looking for. I didn’t feel the pain anymore. So the surgery was carried out successfully. But after I got back into the ward the following day, I was told the epidural pump had to be removed. They did and, at about 8:00, I sat.
“Everything seemed okay but my legs were having spasms. I was told it would wear off. In the evening, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. They had to look for a neurologist to come and check. She came and said I had to go for an MRI. I’ve had four MRIs. The first two, they said, ‘Oh, we didn’t see anything.’ After the third, they said I had to have a lumbar puncture. I was seeking a lumbar puncture. They said they saw a bacteria but don’t know what it is.
“One of them even suggested that maybe it’s a disease from Africa, tuberculosis, malaria, or cerebral meningitis. They carried out all the tests, yet, didn’t see anything. So the question was, where did the bacteria come from? Was it in the process of administering the epidural it entered my system as a result of not scrubbing me very well? Or is it that the person who administered the epidural didn’t sterilise her equipment properly? Nobody gave an answer.”
She revealed that it was after a meeting with the doctors involved that it was discovered that a third-year resident administered her epidural while the supervisor claimed she just stood by the side.
Ajima said the hospital had failed to tender a formal apology and cater to their medical bills on request. She also added that AZ Sint-Jan took one week to send Susan’s medical files when she needed a transfer.
Both Ajima and Susan alleged racism while seeking redress from the hospital.
“The neurologist hasn’t even stopped by Susan’s room. It’s after we realised all these, they brought a rehabilitation doctor, who is black, for us. Why? I feel they dragged him into this for damage control. And also how can two family members of the same race have two rare complications in the hospital. Why was a resident also used in my surgery? These are questions. We even said okay, no apologies. Let’s sit and have a conversation,” Ajima further narrated.
“How do you make our lives easy? What happens to Susan’s medical bills? How can they ruin the two lives of two sisters and nobody is showing any remorse. Nobody feels like we deserve an apology. At first, we thought it was subtle racism but it’s not even subtle. It’s glaring racism. Nobody even comes to us. They feel maybe we’re asking for too much. If it was a family member of one of these doctors, they would have gone above and beyond.
“Even when her file was supposed to be sent to UZ Gent. We kept on pushing. It was sent after a week. We kept on asking them, ‘have you consulted other doctors to find a solution? Have you done this?’ They say, ‘no, can they do it?’ How can you ask a patient? We don’t think the bacteria was involved. I believe her nerve roots were damaged.
“If not, why haven’t they seen the bacteria? They try to blame it on malaria, meningitis, or tuberculosis. We’re lucky Susan did not have a bit of malaria in her blood. They would have held on to that. They told us that it’s a bacteria not found in Caucasians or Europeans. It’s a bacteria found in Africa. Is this not all racism? If everything was done perfectly, why is my sister-in-law in a chair? We feel that this hospital deserves to be investigated. We need justice.”