In December last year, *Anita Nekesa had a miscarriage when she was five months pregnant. Unbeknownst to her, she had contracted Covid-19.
“As I left work late one Sunday, I felt dizzy then I began bleeding. I rushed to hospital. The ultrasound showed all was Ok because my cervix was still closed, which meant the baby had not engaged,” she recalls.
“They could not feel the baby’s heartbeat, so they referred me to a gynecologist. They repeated the ultrasound and it confirmed that the baby had died. They carried out a dilation and curettage procedure (D&C) to end the pregnancy.”
A suction D&C is used after a miscarriage to remove the fetus and other tissues if they have not all been naturally passed to avoid an infection or heavy bleeding.
“In January, I resumed work and a month later, I discovered I was pregnant again. The journey was okay and at eight weeks, an ultrasound showed all was well. Everything appeared normal until June, when I was five months. One Friday morning I felt contractions and rushed to hospital. A scan showed all was normal, but the doctor asked me to return after every three weeks because of the miscarriage I had had earlier.
“A few days later, I woke up feeling unwell but just took painkillers and went to the salon. As I drove, I felt a slight fever, which I ignored. As they handled my hair, I felt cold; I also vomited. By 4pm, my situation had deteriorated to a point that I couldn’t drive and so my husband came and took me to Aga Khan.
“Doctors carried out blood tests after putting me to bed and when the results came back, they said I had an infection. One of the experts suggested I take a Covid-19 test, but I ruled it out because I was not coughing and had no symptoms of the disease.
“I was given painkillers and antibiotics and by midnight, I had been discharged. I went back to work the following Monday, but the next day, I fell sick again. My boss was also unwell and on medication, which meant I could not leave. By Thursday, I had started losing my breath. My blood pressure was Ok, but the pulse rate was high. I bought medication for the cold and went to work the following week.
“My situation deteriorated and I returned to hospital but they just did more blood tests and gave me more antibiotics. When I resumed work, the coughing was so bad that it made colleagues uncomfortable. My appetite vanished, and I discovered I had lost the sense of taste in my mouth. I did not eat anything for three days. Walking and breathing became a problem. I was in so much pain that my entire body was on fire.
“My husband took me back to Aga Khan, where they relieved the pain and carried out some tests. They also sent a team to my house to conduct a Covid-19 PCR test. I was positive. My gynecologist advised on home-based care. The first eight days into the treatment were tough, but after 10 days, I started getting better.
“I tested negative 14 days later but the effects overwhelmed me so much that I was re-admitted. Upon recovery, my doctors advised that I take the Moderna vaccine. Last Friday, I had my second jab. Doctors believe I got the virus during the first pregnancy, but because I had no symptoms, we couldn’t tell. There was also speculation about effects of the vaccine on pregnant women. My baby is now safe; I can assure all the vaccine is safe.
“For home-based care, I spent between Sh8,000 and 10,000 on medication. During the admission in the town hospitals, I spent a total of Sh70,000 because I also developed gastritis, which had to be treated. I urge the government to prioritise pregnant women when it comes to the jab so they can have it early. They should not suffer because there is no policy in place, yet we can count about 12 epidemiological studies in the UK and US that show the vaccine is safe for expectant mothers.
“I have agreed to be part of a study by Aga Khan and the World Health Organisation (WHO) so that the findings they get from monitoring me as an expectant mother who took the jab provides data that can be used to help other women out there.”