Baby born without eyes buried in grandmother’s hut

Mariam Mwakombo ( in yellow) with her mother-in-law Chizi Ndune at their home at Mreroni area in Jomvu, Mombasa County. Mwakombo gave birth to a baby girl with a rare condition. Picture: Atieno Akumu
Mariam Mwakombo ( in yellow) with her mother-in-law Chizi Ndune at their home at Mreroni area in Jomvu, Mombasa County. Mwakombo gave birth to a baby girl with a rare condition. Picture: Atieno Akumu

Heavy breathing and a struggling choke is what welcomes us to 22-year-old Mariam Mwakombo’s house at Mreroni Village, Jomvu Constituency.

A close look reveals a small bundle wrapped in lesso struggling to breathe from Mwakombo’s bosom, this is her last child.

The camera shy mother of four explains that unlike her previous births, the last one was a premature birth.

It is the birth of this last baby that kept her usually quiet home full of villagers, all wanting to catch a glimpse of the little girl born without eyes and a deformed nose.

“Everyone is shocked by the birth of this baby, we have no such medical condition in our family history. We leave it to God and cannot question his wisdom since he is the creator and his works are perfect. There is nothing much we can do other than seek local medical attention,” she said.

According to Mwakombo, it all began with sharp pains in her lower abdomen on a Friday at midnight. Being that she was seven months into the pregnancy, she ignored the pains and continued to sleep.

However, few hours later she could no longer bear the pain and in an attempt to get up from the bed, a quick squish gushed out followed by the baby.

“I was still in disbelief as my husband rushed to call my mother-in-law to come and assist me. As she helped cut the placenta, we noticed that the baby had some deformities,” said Mwakombo.

Her husband Hassan Kokoto aged 27, who still appeared shaken during the interview said he was astonished by the features of their last born child.

“My wife had been attending ante-natal clinics until the nurses strike kicked off. She has never had any complications so we believed everything was okay,” he said.

Kokoto said he was tempted to abandon the baby soon after birth since the Mijikenda culture considers children born with such deformities a sign of bad omen.

He noted that some of his close relatives were mounting pressure on him to comply with the tradition, while his conscience was a bit troubled having to get rid of the innocent baby, a situation he said put him between a rock and a hard place.

According to Kokoto, after explaining to some of his friends about the dilemma, they advised him to seek medical and financial assistance through social media platforms.

“I posted the pictures online and majority of the people advised that I take the baby to Bomu Hospital for medical assistance,” said Kokoto.

Together with the wife, they rushed to the facility but were referred to Port Reitz Hospital where it also occurred that there was no capacity to handle a medical condition of that level.

Kokoto, who fends for his family through menial jobs, could not raise the KSh300 fare required to transport him and his wife to the Coast Provincial General Hospital.

Mwakombo could not breastfeed the baby since she was breathing with her mouth instead of the nose because the latter was not fully formed.

The girl, who was born on Friday, died and was buried on Sunday as the family was still in the process of raising fare to the general hospital.

In accordance with the Mijikenda community, the baby was buried inside her grandmother’s hut.

Meanwhile, Changamwe District Criminal Investigations Officer (DCIO) Francis Wanjau dispelled rumours that the family had opted to get rid of the baby soon after birth.

“We received information that a family in Jomvu had been blessed with a baby and rumours were that they were planning to get rid of that baby because of deformities,” said Wanjau. He added: “We visited the family and found them working towards taking her to Bomu Hospital. Later we learnt that the baby passed on since she could not breathe well and could also not breastfed.”

Wanjau said the Government would take stringent measures on individuals taking away the lives of children born with disabilities adding that every life is sacred.

According to the National Eye Institute website, the condition where a baby is born without an eye or both eyes is referred to as anophthalmia. It explains that this rare disorder develops during pregnancy and can be associated with other birth defects.

The medical site explains that causes of the conditions may include genetic mutations and abnormal chromosomes.

Researchers also believe that environmental factors, such as exposure to X-rays, chemicals, drugs, pesticides, toxins, radiation or viruses, increase the risk of anophthalmia but the research is not conclusive.

Sometimes the cause in an individual patient cannot be determined.

There is no treatment for severe anophthalmia that will create a new eye or restore vision according to the National Eye Institute.

However, children can be fitted for a prosthetic (artificial) eye for cosmetic purposes and to promote socket growth.

A new-born with anophthalmia will need to visit several eye care professionals, including those who specialize in paediatrics, vitreoretinal disease, orbital and oculoplastic surgery, ophthalmic genetics, and prosthetic devices for the eye.

Each specialist can provide information and possible treatment resulting in the best care for the child and family.

The specialist in prosthetic diseases for the eye will make conformers, plastic structures that help support the face and encourage the eye socket to grow.

As the face develops, new conformers will need to be made. A child with anophthalmia may also need to use expanders in addition to conformers to further enlarge the eye socket.

Once the face is fully developed, prosthetic eyes can be made and placed. Prosthetic eyes will however not restore vision.

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