When Maureen Achieng’ went into labour on Sunday, her husband William Nyauru, a farmer in Homa Bay County, expected their new member of the family to be just like their three other children.
But when she finally delivered her baby girl, something was wrong with her: her brain was growing outside of her skull.
When the Nation caught up with them at Samari Medical Centre in Rodi Kopany, Mr Nyauru said he was confused.
He was happy to become a father for the fourth time, but the baby’s condition worried him.
“I have been told by health workers here that the condition can be corrected. I have never seen it before so I am still confused,” he said.
“I need help because I want her to live. I appeal to well-wishers to intervene so my daughter can live a happy life like her siblings.”
His 25-year-old wife was perched on her hospital bed, pondering her next move, as her newborn lay beside her.
The girl was born with a rare condition in which her brain is outside the skull but it is covered with skin.
The clinical officer in charge Joseph Odhiambo described the condition as meningocele.
Meningocele is a birth defect in which a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly.
It occurs when the bottom end of the neural tube — the structure which gives rise to the central nervous system — fails to close in an embryo.
It can occur if the mother fails to take antenatal drugs for neuron tube development.
“The infant could have acquired the defect as a result of genetic distortion or exposure of her mother to harmful radiation at the early stages of her pregnancy,” Dr Kevin Osuri, the Homa Bay director of medical services, said.
“The condition can be corrected through a medical operation but only if conducted as soon as possible from the time of her birth.”
The doctors have however said all the other parts of the infant’s body are functioning properly.
The mother said she was not able to get prenatal care services or do a scan during pregnancy due to financial constraints.
“I worry about her condition. I can’t help. I don’t even know how she feels now,” she said.
On Tuesday, hospital officials said they would delay discharging the mother and baby as cultural misconceptions might lead to her being killed.
He said some people had linked the defect to witchcraft.
The clinic’s administrator Jephters Olwero said the condition needed attention from specialists.
“This condition can be handled well at public health facilities such as Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, Kijabe and Moi Teaching and Referral hospital. She requires immediate attention,” he said.