Financial challenges have compelled a young couple at Abuoso in Techiman in the Bono East Region, to abandon treatment of their baby with obstructive hydrocephalus at the hospital and resorted to herbal medicine.
The 11-month-old baby was diagnosed with the condition at the Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, and was scheduled for surgery to correct the defect.
Doctors at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital warn that any further delay could worsen the already complicated condition which can be corrected only by surgery.
The joy of a young couple to celebrate the birth of a child was short-lived when doctors detected abnormal head and growth at the baby’s back a week later.
It was the beginning of a difficult moment for the young parents who have since known no peace as neighbours stigmatise them over the child’s condition.
“I am so disturbed because I haven’t seen such a thing before. I am in deep pain. The thought of the child’s condition always draw me to tears. My first child shouldn’t be suffering from this. I would content it if it happened to a second child,” mother of the baby, Mohammed Ananga Aishatu said in Twi.
There are some who go to the extent of suggesting the parents cruelly end the life of what they believe is a ‘River Baby’, But the couple has resisted the advise.
“Some people call her River Baby. Others also say I got her from the spirits of a deity. I am confused and don’t know what to do. I have become a laughing stock,” she added.
The couple’s unemployed status means they cannot afford the child’s treatment at the hospital.
The cost of treatment is estimated between ¢10,000 and ¢20,000.
“I sometimes, contemplate ending it all. The thoughts of who will take care of the baby in my absence haunt me,” she revealed.
Out of desperation and frustrations, the parents have resorted to the use of herbal medicine to treat a condition that requires a scientific approach.
She says little has changed ever since she sought herbal treatment.
I met the herbalist, Abubakar Iddrisu, who has been treating little Rafiatu Iddrisu. Abubakar boasts to have cured the condition and several others.
He disputes the mother’s claim the baby has seen no improvement.
“When they first brought the child, she had a deformity in the head. Thank God, that has improved significantly after applying the concoction. I believe she will get well with time,” he insisted.
The parents organised what they termed a “token” for the herbalist to treat the girl. They have promised a “thank you” for him later if he is able to successfully treat the girl.
Suspected folic deformity
Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital sees averagely sees 8 hydrocephalus cases each month.
Doctors suspect the hydrocephalus may have developed as a result of a folic acid deficiency in the first 3-months of pregnancy.
A Senior Resident in charge of Neuro Surgery at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr. Dickson Bandoh says the child’s condition will degenerate if it is not given urgent attention.
“If this situation is left as it is, it literally means the child’s brain will not grow; which has its own implications for the child’s development. What needs to be done really is to remove the swelling on the child’s back and fix the excess water in the head.”
Dr. Bandoh says herbal medicine has no role in the care for the child’s brain and spinal condition, adding, surgery is the only solution for the child’s structural problem.
It entails fixing of a pipe (shunt) from the head to drain excess water into the child’s stomach to reduce the pressure on the brain.
“If there is a structural problem that needs to be addressed, clearly herbal medicine would not be able to do that. So in this child’s instance, what the child needs is surgery. Surgery is the only way forward for this child. Herbal medicine really has no role in the care for this child,” says Dr. Bandoh.
Until, perhaps, divine intervention comes, the fate of the baby will continue to hang in a balance.