Mother's sorrow at missing baby's last days

Life is not the same for 24-year-old Enite Talavea, as she joins an increasing number of mothers in Samoa, who have watched in helplessness as the measles epidemic claimed her daughter’s life.

Eight-month-old Ropeta Vesi died at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital, Motootua on Thursday after battling measles.

Mrs Talavea, who is now pregnant with her fifth child, was banned from seeing her baby girl after she was admitted in hospital. And it is her absence from baby Enite at those critical times, in her baby’s last hours as she battled the virus, which has left her in a state of shock and engulfed her with guilt.

“I feel like I still should have been there in that hospital looking after her. I didn’t know those would be her last days on this earth,” she said, in an interview with the Samoa Observer, while quietly crying.

The baby started showing symptoms of measles on Sunday, November 24 according to her 48-year-old grandmother, Ula Toma. But the lack of access to transport and the location of their home at Manono-uta, about 33 kilometers west of the Samoan capital Apia, made it difficult for the family to move the baby to the hospital. 

Consequently, they waited until Monday and came to town to get the baby admitted. The baby died on Thursday, four days after her hospital admission. 

Mrs Talavea, in order to comply with the prohibition imposed by the authorities, waited patiently at home at Manono-uta for news of her daughter’s condition. Four days later she was advised of her loss. 

Mrs Toma, who took care of her granddaughter in the hospital, said baby Ropeta and other children of her age could not fight the virus when they got infected. 

“From my experience from what I saw in the hospital and from the dear granddaughter, our children cannot bear with this deadly disease once they’re affected,” she said, while fighting back tears.

“If they (parents) feel that they need to assist the children by going to some traditional healers, just to boost the treatment from the hospital, then it’s up to them. But the safety of the lives of our children are in our own hands.”

Baby’s Ropeta’s death was a blow to Mrs Talavea, but she decided to wave off the emotions and get on with the burial formalities of their daughter. The baby was buried on Thursday.

If there is one lesson that the distraught mother will take away from this heartache, it would be for her to ensure her children are always supervised, and not to take the measles epidemic for granted. 

“As my mother said, we keep hearing about the families mourning for their deceased members but we never thought it would happen to us as well.”

One of Mrs Talavea’s four children, her second born child, also suffers from measles but is recovering. 

In an official update provided by the Government's National Emergency Operations Centre it was revealed that three expectant mothers are among those receiving in-patient treatment at hospitals.

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