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Death of baby with fork jembe in his head reveals gross negligence at KNH

The death of Baby Travis Maina, the two-year-old boy whose photos went viral for having a fork jembe (hoe) lodged in his head, was as a result of gross negligence at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). This is according to the Senate Health Committee. 

According to an investigative report by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Baby Travis suffered fatal penetrating head injuries on October 10, 2022, after being accidentally struck on the left side of his head with a fork jembe by his elder brother.

The report by Health Committee released on Wednesday, May 31 2023, highlighted significant delays in the provision of medical care to Baby Travis.

Due to limited access to health and emergency referral services, he was first attended to at Ndula Medical Center, a private facility, approximately two hours after sustaining his injuries. It was not until three hours later that he was transferred to Thika Level 5 Hospital for specialized treatment.

Upon arrival at Thika Level 5 Hospital, Baby Travis received emergency care, including anticonvulsants and medication to reduce brain edema. However, due to the lack of pediatric neurosurgical capacity, he was referred to KNH.

Also read: How negligence at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital caused the death of pregnant woman

Shockingly, the report revealed that it took over 18 hours from the time Baby Travis arrived at KNH for a decision to be made to take him to the theater for surgery.

“The late Travis received appropriate treatment at Thika Level 5 Hospital, and was referred to KNH in a timely manner,” the committee noted in their report.

The delays were attributed to the need to stabilize his hemoglobin levels and clotting time.

Judy Muthoni, 29, captured in this file photo with her son Travis Maina
Judy Muthoni, 29, captured in this file photo with her son Travis Maina (left) who died at the Kenyatta National Hospital on October 11, 2022. One of her sons hit Travis with a fork jembe in Ndula village, Thika East Kiambu.

However, the investigative committee discovered that the decision was based on a bedside clinical test called bleeding time rather than the laboratory-based International Normalised Ratio (INR) as initially claimed.

Further, a consultant hematologist stated that emergency patients could still undergo surgery, even with a high INR, provided that an ICU bed was available.

Another avoidable delay of five hours occurred before Baby Travis was finally transferred to the theater. KNH cited an ongoing pediatric neurosurgery emergency in theater 2 as the reason for the delay.

Also read: RIP angel! Boy, 2, with fork jembe lodged in head dies at Kenyatta National Hospital

“Contrary to submissions by KNH that theater 2 was the only theater suitable for the procedure, as per the report by KMPDC, at least two other theaters were suitable and available for emergency procedures i.e. theater 12 and theater 9. However, at the time that the late Master Travis was being kept waiting for theater 2, there was an elective list running in theater 9,” the report reads.

The post-mortem examination conducted by the Government Pathologist confirmed that Baby Travis’s cause of death was fatally raised intracranial pressure due to the penetrating brain injury caused by the fork jembe.

Disturbingly, the report indicated that KNH took at least 18 hours to transfer Baby Travis to the theater, despite the well-recognized urgency of managing raised intracranial pressure.

Although the committee did not find evidence supporting the claim that Baby Travis was denied treatment due to his mother’s inability to pay Sh20,500.00, it acknowledged the possibility of a rogue individual or staff member making such a demand, outside the hospital’s official policy.

In light of these distressing findings, the committee recommended that KNH be thoroughly investigated by relevant health regulatory bodies for its culpability in Baby Travis Maina’s wrongful death resulting from medical negligence. The report also included a comprehensive summary of the committee’s observations and recommendations.

Also read: I sat on a plastic chair all night with a fork jembe in my baby’s head – Judith Muthoni