Couple cannot get, or see baby's body, six months after his deathSunday, October 24, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
The past six months have been agonising for Kumar Bent and Sashagay Harris-Bent.
The couple has been left to wonder why their son, Kaleb, died just two days after being born. In fact, they say they haven't been able to properly move past heartache and grief as they haven't seen or got their baby's body, or any form of communication from the hospital.
Their plight began on April 6, when Sashagay went to University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) for an emergency Caesarean section. She told the Jamaica Observer that she had the baby the same day and, while awaiting COVID-19 test results, she couldn't see him until the morning before he died, on April 8.
“I was not living in Kingston at the time, but I was in Kingston and I was recommended by my doctor to see a doctor here in Kingston because the baby's movements had slowed. After doing checks it was confirmed that something was going on, and so an emergency C-section was recommended. The baby was delivered and was very sick, according to the hospital. He was born on April 6 and died on the morning of April 8,” Sashagay recalled.
And because the baby's actual cause of death was inconclusive, she said the hospital asked if the parents wanted to do an autopsy.
“We said 'yes' from a place of needing closure. Please keep in mind that he was a full-term baby, because I was 38 weeks pregnant at the time, and, of course, we thought an autopsy was indeed necessary. It was a healthy pregnancy for the baby, not so much for me in the initial stages. And so we signed to the autopsy being done,” Sashagay told the Sunday Observer, noting that they were told they would have to wait four to five weeks for the autopsy to be completed.
But fast-forward to today, over six months later, the grieving parents said they still haven't got a report from the hospital.
“They have never reached out to us in its regard. To add insult to injury, we have not received the baby's body to do as we had planned. If it had not been for God Himself no closure would have been possible. And trying to call the hospital is like trying to find yourself out of a maze, because nobody has any information to give you. Nobody knows who to direct you to. That is what it's been like for us,” the mother explained.
Kumar, the baby's father, told the Sunday Observer that they have waited patiently and quietly, but now feel as though they have been grossly wronged.
“It's really hard. It has gone too far now, where the closure has to come from us. I'm not trying to drag UHWI through any dirt either. I know the hospital is overwhelmed with COVID, so I am trying my best to be considerate. I know they are under pressure, so I was trying not to add more issues to the system. I was saying maybe if we just wait and call every day we will get through. But this is trauma. You don't know what happened, you are not really sure, and you just have to give up,” he said.
“We are still struggling to understand ourselves again and accept the fact that we lost Kaleb. Even a phone call explaining what went wrong would've sufficed. My wife felt like she gave up on the baby. She felt like she was responsible for not fighting harder. It is pressuring. You're angry all the time,” Kumar continued.
He explained to the Sunday Observer that they exhausted all options known to them to seek answers from the hospital's management. In doing so they contacted Dr Peter Glegg, the hospital's senior legal officer.
“If that is not reaching out to hospital management, I don't know what is. He promised me he would help me... and nothing. That threw me off. I just couldn't manage anymore. I still have to be a father because I have another child. I still have to be a husband. I still have to try to keep my house running; and I have a career. I can't go too deep in the rabbit hole.”
The Sunday Observer attained a screen grab of an e-mail from Sashagay that was sent to Dr Glegg and the director of patient affairs on Tuesday, August 31.
In the e-mail, she wrote: “All of this while still not knowing what happened nor a body to look at has made our process more difficult. We are awaiting your most earnest response.”
Sashagay said the senior legal officer had sent them the e-mail address for the head of patient affairs.
“However, the e-mail that he gave us bounced. When my husband called him to tell him what happened, he said 'forget about it' and said he went directly to the head of the autopsy department, and he was getting the information. My husband was getting frustrated with the fact that it was their hiccup and we still had to be chasing after them. So we didn't call back to see if they would reach out to us and we haven't heard from him since,” she said, noting that they last spoke to him in early September.
When contacted on Thursday, Kevin Allen, CEO of the UHWI, told the Sunday Observer that he would investigate the matter. Allen also said patient confidentiality precludes him from disclosing anything found during his information without “getting something in writing” from the parents.
On Friday, Dr Glegg told the Sunday Observer: “We are investigating the matter. We had reached out to the head of paediatrics to give us some information on the matter. I know Mr Allen had spoken to the head of paediatrics for a report.”
Prior to making contact with Dr Glegg, the Bents said they got a call from the Registrar General's Department saying they were supposed to come in to pick up the baby's birth certificate.
“Of course, we were kinda dumbfounded. I was the one who had to explain to the lady that the baby had died. She didn't know that information. She then said she would find out some information for us, so we could make one trip to pick up the both the birth certificate and the death certificate. I haven't heard back from them.”
The parents stressed the fact that they have never blamed the hospital for the baby's death. They specified that their grouse stems from a lack of communication and transparency.
“It's just the grace of God that is getting us through. I am afraid now. Even if they should call us now, who is going to identify the body? Because after so long, there is nothing there to identify. It's not going to even be recognisable at this point. Whatever they would give me, that is not my baby. So, what do we do? We were going to cremate the body and do like a little thanksgiving service. But here we are,” Sashagay lamented.
“Even if they don't have a concluding report, at least call us so we can collect the body. Not even that. We already made up our minds that God works in wondrous ways and the baby died. It was not even a case where we believed that something happened on their part. We tried not to put any blame anywhere. For our healing, we tried not to point a finger at UHWI.”
She further added that their eight-year-old son is also left in the dark.
“He was looking forward to being a big brother. Imagine him being in the house with me and seeing me pregnant for so long and I go to the hospital and come back without the baby. The first thing he asked me was, 'Mommy where is my brother? Is he in the car?' You can just imagine. We've had to basically just talk him through the whole thing. But he has had nothing. If we got the body and had a service, that would've maybe cemented it for him. But here we are how many months later.”
Sashagay said she expected much more compassion considering the nature of her baby's death.
“The doctors know the connection that lies there. They know the kinda loss. Not even the human quality to call and say, 'This is where we are.' Nothing. Something has to be said. Some days I am not as good as today. My older son is the one that has really kept me in my present mind. Trying to come to grips with my healthy baby dying, plus not having any closure about what might have gone wrong; all of that is a lot.”