“At a stage, he yanked off his infusion and we had blood everywhere on his bed”
Despite an apology from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the government and people of Nigeria, the aftermath of Patrick Sawyer’s death from Ebola and the ramifications in Nigeria continues to linger. A revelation from Obi Justina Ejelonu, one of the Nurses who treated Sawyer and is now said to be Infected With Ebola, is shedding more light on a recent FrontPageAfrica report about Sawyer’s final hours in Lagos.
Monrovia – Nigeria’s Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nurudeem Mohammed revealed last week that Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had apologized to the Nigerian government over the lapses in her government that led to Patrick Sawyer breaching instructions not to travel shortly after the death of his sister, Princess, at the Catholic Hospital, from the deadly Ebola virus, only three weeks before Sawyer’s demise.
The circumstances surrounding the departure of Sawyer, a Coordinator of the ECOWAS National Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s departure from Monrovia has become a talking point since his death and the subsequent revelation that he took the virus to Nigeria.
At least one doctor who came in contact with Sawyer has died and some 40 others who also came in contact with him are under quarantine in Nigeria. Eight other members of the delegation from Liberia who accompanied Sawyer to Nigeria have reportedly returned to Monrovia but it is unclear whether they have been quarantined by health authorities in Liberia and how much contact they made with Sawyer.
One of those Nigerian health care workers, Obi Justina Ejelonu, who was on duty at the First Consultant Hospital in Obalende, Lagos when Sawyer was brought in, is said to be clinging onto her life after contracting the virus. Ironically, Obi Justina had initially posted a message on her Facebook page boasting that she had limited contact with Sawyer and was grateful to God to be alive:
Obi Justina wrote: “I never contacted his fluids. I checked his vitals, helped him with his food (he was too weak)…..I basically touched where his hands touched and that’s the only contact. Not directly with his fluids. At a stage, he yanked off his infusion and we had blood everywhere on his bed…..but the ward maids took care of that and changed his linens with great precaution.”
During a recent fact-finding mission to Lagos, FrontPageAfrica gathered from diplomats and medical practitioners at the hospital that Sawyer behaved rather strangely with healthcare workers in manners similar to what Nurse Obi Justina is now revealing. But one hospital source told FPA that in addition to yanking the infusion tubes, Sawyer took off his pants and urinated on the floor as nurses fled from his presence. The hospital was shut down immediately after Sawyer’s death.
In her own words, Nurse Justina Obi writes:
“Every patient is treated as high risk …..if it were airborne, by now wahala for dey. I still thank God. Friends, up to our uniforms n all linens were burnt off. We are on surveillance n off work till 11th. Our samples v long bn taken by WHO and so far we have been fine. For me, kudos to my hospital managtcos we work professionally wt every patient considered risk cos that’s d training. Had it been it’s a hospital where they manage ordinary gloves like Gov’t hospital n some janjaweed privatehosp..:lol….wahala for dey o. I must also thank Lagos Govt….infact! Even fed govt sef….all been supportive. I’m good n so r the others in d hospital…..”
The nurse reportedly went into quarantine after the posting and is said to be currently treated at the Mainland hospital in Yaba, Lagos alongside about 40 others. A similar behavior by Sawyer prior to his sister’s death has been documented at the Catholic Hospital, where several nurses and doctors have died in recent weeks.
Justina Obi’s condition is drawing concerns from social media and various Nigerian chat rooms with a reported online campaign by some Nigerians to pressurize the US government to give Obi Justina Ejelonu and others infected with the virus the same experimental drugs used for US doctors who also contracted the Ebola virus. A plea for prayers for Justina Obi by Motivational speaker and teacher, I.C. Ezeugwu has drawn more than six thousand views on Facebook.
“All is not well with Justina. She is currently at the Yaba quarantine center, praying for a miracle out of what could be anyone’s worst nightmare. Her test results came back positive for the Ebola virus and she’s currently battling for her life. They say Ebola has no cure, but I know one cure for Ebola and that’s prayer; I also know one man who cures Ebola and that’s Jesus,” the motivational speaker writes.
But a plea from Nigeria to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has fallen on deaf ears with the center ruling out the possibility even though, two Americans have benefited from the serum.
Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told a news conference last week that Nigeria had asked the US health authorities about the unproven medicines used on two American doctors, but was told such small quantities existed that West Africa would have to wait for months for supplies, even if they were proven safe and effective.
Dr. Kent Brantly and Dr. Nancy Writebol of the evangelical Christian organization Samantha’s Purse contracted the virus while helping to treat victims in Liberia. They were given the drug ZMapp after being evacuated to the US, and appear to be recovering. A spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control said “there are virtually no doses available” and they would take several months to manufacture.
US President Barack Obama stated that there is no need to rush for an Ebola drug until it can be proven to be safe. “We’ve got to let the science guide us and I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful,” Obama said. “The Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.”
He said affected countries are the first to admit that what is happening is that the public health systems have been overwhelmed. “They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough,” he said. “As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that occurred previously.”
The implications of Sawyer’s death have been so grave that the office of the Minister of Finance, under public pressure and criticisms for allowing Sawyer to leave, was forced to distance itself from Sawyer, and debunking reports that Sawyer made contact with Minister Amara Konneh.
“The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning wishes to dispel a very malicious and unfounded rumor circulating, that Minister Amara Konneh was tested and diagnosed positive with the deadly Ebola virus and currently in quarantine,” a statement from the ministry read last week.
“This rumor is untrue and has already been dismissed by the authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia. The Ministry insists that neither the Minister nor any Ministry officials have been quarantined, as being falsely rumored.”
The Sawyer debacle has also forced the ministry to put into play several precautionary steps to allow all other staff, including officials of the Ministry that might have interacted with Mr. Sawyer, to remain home and observe their health conditions for 21 days starting July 20th, as prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. “The Ministry stresses that “no tests have yet been conducted on any official or staff, as any such test, without early symptoms, would result in a negative outcome.”
The ministry says no other Ministry of Finance staff has been reported ill since July 18th the last time the late Sawyer was seen in the vicinity of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
“For the records, Minister Amara Konneh last interacted with Mr. Patrick Sawyer on June 20, 2014, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea at the Summit of the African Peer Review Mechanism on the margins of the African Union Summit.”
In addition, the ministry has restricted use of the elevator in the building, restricting to only 4 persons per trip. “Absolutely, no clustering on the stairways; No gathering of more than five persons, except for meetings in conference spaces or spatial environment; Absolutely no handshakes, hugging of other physical bodily contact; Please report any suspicious illness or strange conditions amongst employees,” a mandate signed by the Minister noted last week.
As of Friday, August 8, 2014, the largest and longest Ebola outbreak in history — had killed 961 people and sickened 1,779 others. The WHO says, the virus is poised to sicken more than all of the previous outbreaks combined.
There is currently no licensed vaccine or treatment for Ebola, although experimental drugs are being explored after two American medical missionaries infected with the virus appeared to show signs of improvement after taking new medications. About 54% of people who have been infected in this latest outbreak have died.
Last Friday, the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” and has called for international solidarity” but also said many countries would probably not see any Ebola cases.”Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own,” Chan said. “I urge the international community to provide support on the most urgent basis possible.”
In Lagos, many Nigerians are growing increasingly worried that the continued quarantining of Ebola victims would discourage other ill-patients from coming forward.
“They see the quarantine as a death sentence,” says John Okiyi Kalu via phone from Lagos Sunday. “The stigma is not good. For now, the international community must make sure that those secret serums and experimental drugs are made available to those who are being quarantined so that they can be saved, but if they all die, people will be very afraid to come forward.”
But the World Health Organization dashed those hopes Saturday by indicating that the trial drugs would not be ready for widespread distribution until next year. “I think it’s realistic,” Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of the UN health agency, told AFP.