The Case of Monique and the Healthcare System in Cameroon: Be that Voice
Well, there is a new trend among fellow friends nowadays on social media, I don’t know if I should call it political correctness, or being cool or just wanting to be the ultimate smart person or maybe some really do mean it. My problem with some of these persons is, they do not know when to draw the line. They will tell you Cameroonians have lost their reasoning and their sense of objectivity etc. because they are telling a story these persons claim is one-sided or has loop-holes. True, social media and the press at large, do blow things out of proportion; True, it is often good to know more, seek the other side to a story before drawing conclusions, BUT…. (I will come to my BUT shortly).
We all know the latest happenings in Douala, Cameroon. The case of Monique, a pregnant woman who died and was cut open in front of a government hospital by a female relative in her attempt to save the woman’s twin babies. This story went viral on social media, with most Cameroonians calling out and exposing the inadequacies of the Cameroon health system, while my other learned colleagues on the other side are bashing the woman, with some saying the babies were already dead so the hospital did nothing wrong. Now, what these learned friends of mine fail to understand, is, most people are not actually saying the hospital staff killed those babies. They might have, they might have not. With no proper examination by a competent staff, we cannot know. What we know is, someone who is not a health worker, took it into their hands to give birth to the babies. Thus our questioning – how come, what circumstances, will prompt a woman to cut open a dead pregnant woman in front of a medical center to save her unborn babies? That is the question that I think should appeal to every single person’s humane side, be you a health worker or a novice in issues of health. What will push someone to commit such an unethical act? What went wrong and where, if at all? That I think is the question most Cameroonians are asking. And I am happy I could actually see this question making its rounds on some Facebook timelines, in spite of how much others tried to make them look stupid.
Sometimes, it is not only about hearing both sides to a story. Sometimes, you need to look at the situation at hand, analyze it and use it to bring out the other side or whatever sides to the story there is. That was my BUT in the first instance.
In the USA nowadays, when a black person is shot by the police walking down the street, what happens? RAGE. People are angry. They start screaming, they want answers. They go to the press, on social media, on the street. Not one of them sit back and say – no wait, stop acting stupid, let’s wait and hear first from the police officer. We need the other side of the story before we can do something. No, you don’t hear that. And you know why? Because it is not the first time a random black kid/person is shot by the police in the US. People are fed up. They do not care about the other side. They do not care about what actually happened. It keeps happening and happening and they just want it to STOP!
It is the same case with what happened at Laquntinie hospital in Douala. It is not about this one “isolated” situation. It is about all those other situations that have been happening. Not only in Laquntinie, but in hospitals all over Cameroon. It is about all those patients being turned down simply because their families couldn’t afford basic check up payments. It is about all those kids, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers who die, because the system is so fucked and messed up such that, there is no concern for human lives, it is only concerned about the money. The social media Rage in the case of Monique is a cry to let it STOP! It is the people saying NO, it is ENOUGH! It is not about hearing two sides to a story, it is not about who is right and who is wrong in this one particular case. It is about making things RIGHT, the past, the present and most important, the future. It is about putting a system in place that works, it is about the common citizen having faith in its nations healthcare facilities and its health workers. It is about me, you, walking into a medical institution with an emergency and getting adequate treatment. So please, spare us with your smartness and sharp minds. We are average Cameroonians and we think like average people. Let Us!
To humor my very smart friends, we finally heard the “other” side to the story. The minister of public health, Andre Mama Fouda made a public statement to this unfortunate event. Mark you, Mr minister himself is a medical specialist.
Mr Minister claimed the family brought in the woman in the hospital knowing she was already dead and… wait, let me tackle this first. I am not smart oh, I am just an average Cameroonian. But Mr Minister, how can the family be sure their wife/sister was dead? Are they in any way/form qualified to declare a person death? From my basic knowledge, is it not a medical official, precisely a practicing med. Dr. who is supposed to determine this? I stand to be corrected please, I am always willing to learn.
Ok, Mr Minister continues, saying the family came in with the woman knowing she was already dead, but asked if they could perform an operation to remove the fetus, as according to tradition, they can’t bury a pregnant woman with fetus. The hospital officials claim they can’t undergo such an operation and send the family to another hospital, to Laquntinine…But, HOLD ON. Mr Minister, seriously? Did the health personal of this hospital even carry out an examination? Who were these persons? Was it nurses? Was a med. Dr. involved? Did they determine time of death and if the Fetus was still living? More questions, more confusion.
On arriving Laquntinie, a medical student saw to the family, without taking a look at the patient, he sent them to the maternity. At the maternity, the midwives confirmed death and sent the family to dispose the “corpse” at the mortuary. How did they determine death? By looking at the pupil, checking pulse and heartbeat. No, pop pop pop and bam, Dead! My question to you Mr. Minister, are midwives trained to determine and declare the death of a patient? Was this case ever handled as an emergency? Why was a medical doctor not involved?
The saga continues. At the mortuary, the assistant there told them he saw the baby move. They should take the woman back to the maternity and have her operated. Family jumped into the cab again, ran to the maternity where they were turned down (for the 3rd time) by the health workers and sent back to the mortuary. Now, you can see the desperation and frustration mounting. The family was left on their own, the mob gathered and the inevitable happened. The family took matters into their hands and did what they had expected the hospital to do for them. If one, just one single person of real authority, specifically, a medical doctor had taken time, talked and explained things to this family, maybe this whole mess would have been avoided.
Now Mr Minister and certain learned friends of mine and some medics are condemning the woman who took matters into her own hands. She cut the “dead” patient open herself to remove the babies and now she is in jail. Is her action unethical? Sure it is. Is it criminal, maybe yes, maybe no, that is for the courts to decide. Is it humane, it sure damn well is. Her unethical action was born of frustration and desperation and the inner conviction to set things right. My fellow humans, you seem to undermine the strength of desperation. When you’re desperate, you undertake exceptional sometimes unbelievable measures. You go crazy, you start hearing voices, logic and common sense desert you. And when there’s a mob, you pick out one voice, the one voice that is telling you to do that thing that needs to be done. The mob spoke to this woman in her desperation, and she listened. She doesn’t need jail. What she needs is psychological help, she must be in a very dark place right now, she needs the help of the same institution that failed her and pushed her to her actions.
Let me tell you a personal story. Sometime ago in my teens, I can’t remember exactly how old I was then, in my hometown Limbe, Cameroon, I got into a cab. It was a full cab, with 5 passengers. 3 behind and 2 in the front passenger seat. I was sitting with an elderly woman in front, and I was the one near the door. When it came to my stop, the brakes failed and the cab couldn’t stop. We were going down a slope, faster and faster. The cab driver panicked, we all panicked, the people in the street panicked and there was loud screaming. At that moment, I saw myself confronted with death and my mind was whirling. In the midst of all the screaming going on inside the cab and out on the streets, I heard one voice, one person screaming, “open the door and jump.” Wow, what a sensible thing to do, it was either dead or life and that person was the only person telling me how to live. My muffled up brain told me if I wanted to live, I had to heed to that voice, I had to jump. Without hesitating, I opened the door, the driver screamed for me to stop, too late, I already made the dive. God, the Cosmos and the heavens alone knew how I came out of that unscathed, at the pace the car was going down. A few km down, on level ground, the driver was finally able to break the car and everyone got out safe. I received a thorough scolding from everyone, the driver the passengers (even the one who screamed to jump out) and the onlookers. I couldn’t get it, I was shivering, I was in shock and I was scared. A woman ran into the circle, took one look at me and asked them all to stop. She took me in her arms and held me until the shivering stopped, the whole while whispering to me “don’t worry child, it is ok, you are fine now.” She repeated shhhhhh over and over until the shivering stopped. And then, she took me home. It is more than at least 18 years today and although I can’t remember her face, I can still remember her smell and her soft comforting voice, as much as I can remember that voice that told me to jump. I was in a desperate situation and I listened to the only thing that made sense to me. I could have died, I could have been seriously injured, but at that moment, it was my only means of survival. I was saving myself
Basically, what I am saying is, the lady who cut into the dead woman was in a similar situation. She was frustrated and desperate. She has been turned down by the persons who were supposed to be her helper 3 times already. She felt helpless. And then the mob came, and with it that one voice. That voice that told her exactly what needed to be done to “save” the unborn children, the children she believed were still alive because a hospital worker told her so. So she did the unethical, borne out of ignorance, desperation and frustration. You can’t blame her Mr. minister. You can’t blame her you medics. You can’t blame her my very learned friends. I won’t even dare blame the individual health officials. What and who I will blame is you Mr. Minister and your shitty healthcare system in place. You and your bogus system and structures are a laugh. And you have the audacity to arrest that poor woman, because as you rightly said, she was not qualified to undertake such a procedure. What did your “qualified” personal do to stop this from happening? What has your “qualified” personal and structures in place been doing to stop such over the years? We are tired Mr. Minister. We want it to STOP
My dear humans and citizens of the world, let us all be that VOICE that needs to be heard. Let us turn that one voice who will push you to desperate measures and use it to bring a positive change. Don’t let them fool you. You have the powers to make it happen. What happened to that woman and others before her is an act of negligence and disregard of human life. Her sister/non relative acted in desperation because our healthcare system let her down. Be the Voice, show your frustration, show your desperation, tell Laquntinie this has to STOP. Tell Andre Mama Fouda and his government this has to STOP! Use your VOICES and SCREAM LOUD, Louder than you have ever done in your entire life. Call out the callousness and ignorance of our leaders. Speak Out, SHOUT OUT! I want to hear ALL Cameroonians screaming, bloggers go on your keyboards, Friends shout out, on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, whatsapp, on the streets, wherever you think can have an IMPACT. Let your VOICE be heard, because ALL LIVES MATTERS!
This might be the Story, that one story that will bring the change we all so desperately need. Damn it, if you feel like blowing the story out of proportion, do it. Don’t let anyone intimidate you or talk you down that you’re stupid for doing that, or that you lack reason. If being stupid or having no reason is gonna make it Happen, then by all powers invested upon you, be stupid, and be loud in your stupidity. You don’t need to write a story. A simply hashtag message will do .. #IamMonique #AlllivesMatter #SaveOurMedicalSystem #healthcareforall! Be as creative as you can. Just let your voice be heard, for you, for me, for our children, for keeping innocent people out of jail, for standing up for what’s right. Don’t stay behind the fence. Be Courageous, Be Bold, Be Heard, BE THAT VOICE!