Patrick Sawyer : The Woes Of His Ebola Legacy

But what he did after that was unimaginable. He converted himself to a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ and chose his target – Nigeria, the most populous country  in Africa. Though, he is dead, his arrival now puts the nation’s 170 million people at the risk of this deadly virus.


When we talk about Ebola virus in Nigeria, the first name anyone will think about is Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian who brought in the virus to the country. Even though Sawyer is dead, the many woes he left behind have been tormenting a part of Lagos State and have left families sad with the loss of family members.

Take for instance, the 50-year old nurse, a mother of four who attended to Sawyer as he walked into the hospital has been confirmed dead, and two of her children who lived with her have been evacuated from their home and have been isolated.

The Lagos taxi driver who also drove Sawyer to the hospital has luckily been found and isolated too. The driver first ran to his village for fear of being isolated, but after some time, he was found and he is also currently been closely monitored.

We also have a case of the younger nurse who treated him, whom Nigerians have been pleading that the same experimental drugs used for the two US doctors be used on her and her colleagues as well.

What about the innocent woman who came for a medical check-up, who was immediately attended to after Sawyer by the late 50-year old woman?. We can only hope the list ends.

THISDAY gives a detailed report of the Woes of Sawyers Legacy..

Details have emerged about the first Nigerian to die of the deadly Ebola Virus and how she was infected with the virus.  She was a nurse at the First Consultant Hospital, Obalende, Lagos and was on duty on that fateful day when  Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian, was brought in for treatment.

The veteran nurse said to be  in her 50s, was a mother of four,  who lost her husband just recently, making her the breadwinner of her family.

She  was the nurse that received Sawyer on arrival at the hospital. After initial checks were carried out on him and his temperature was seen to be high, it was her that administered a drip on him following a directive  from a 27-year old medical officer who joined the hospital two months earlier after his housemanship. These young medical officer also gave a helping hand in the process of administering the drip on Sawyer.

Like any diligent and compassionate caregiver would have done, she gave Sawyer all the care needed. She even assisted him into the bathroom by helping him to hold his drip when he requested to use the toilet. She would later attend to other patients who came to the hospital for treatment at that period.

Sawyer had told the medical team on duty that he had malaria. But event began to unfold in quick succession when the result of the first series of tests conducted on Sawyer still did not show any trace of malaria.

He still did not tell the hospital personnel that he had Ebola – a deadly and contagious virus that kills its carrier in a matter of days.

A second test was then carried out, which also did not show any trace of malaria. That was when the possibility that he may be suffering from a more serious ailment began to dawn on the medical team.

When Sawyer was told of the possibility that he may have been infected with Ebola virus, he was said to have become enraged, and even demanded to leave, a request the hospital rejected.

Not even the intervention of an ambassador from the Liberian embassy, who also requested that Sawyer should be released because of his status as a top government official and a diplomat,  would make the hospital release him. Instead, the hospital took a proactive step by informing relevant authorities of the presence of a suspected Ebola patient. That was the decisive action that saved the nation from ‘a weaponised’ human being that would have been unleashed on its population.

Sawyer could not be said to have been oblivious of his health status before heading to Nigeria. Even at the Liberian airport where he boarded an Asky Flight to Nigeria, he looked ill,  avoided body contact with people at the airport in his country, and at a point before boarding, he laid down on his stomach – an indication that he was in great pain – as caught on the surveillance camera.

Even on arrival in Lagos, the Liberian was still terribly ill and was assisted out of the aircraft. Even though his point of embankment was Liberia, a country in the throes of Ebola,  no one thought he was a carrier of a deadly virus. And within hours after his arrival, he ended up at First Consultant Hospital.

It is believed that he may have contracted the virus from his sister who was said to have died of the disease not long ago. But what he did after that was unimaginable. He converted himself to a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ and chose his target – Nigeria, the most populous country  in Africa. Though, he is dead, his arrival  now put the nation’s 170 million people at the risk of this deadly virus.

The diligent nurse who was among the first set of Nigerians that had primary contact with him  died days after Sawyer’s death. Two of her children who were living with her have also been quarantined for close monitoring.

Also, one of the patients she attended to when Sawyer was on admission has tested positive to the virus. That patient was the lady  whose presence at the NNPC Clinic in Lagos for treatment led to the closure of the medical facility last week.

The 27 year- old medical officer that attended to Sawyer has also tested positive to Ebola virus and he is among the eight Nigerians that have tested positive to the deadly virus, seven of whom are currently under close observation  at the Mainland Infectious Diseases Hospital, Yaba.

Another nurse who was on duty on that fateful day and who carried  out checks on him has also tested positive to Ebola virus. She is among the nine confirmed cases in the country, while 139 others are said to be under surveillance.

But there are fears about how feasible it would be to identify all secondary contacts. For instance, the driver who conveyed Sawyer from the airport to First Consultant Hospital was said to have ran to his village before he was later found and quarantined for further observation.

Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, noted this while confirming that relevant authorities know the whereabouts of all primary contacts, but “secondary contacts are much more in number and knowing about them depends on information given by the primary contact”

There are also worries about the dearth of care-givers at the quarantine center. It was gathered that only one caregiver, who is a WHO official, is attending to the seven confirmed carriers of the virus at the center, all of whom are said to be in a hall – a development that showed that Nigeria was really not prepared for this kind of an infectious disease outbreak.

Already President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a national emergency  and approved N1.9 billion special fund  to combat the disease, while the minister of health has announced government’s intention to provide insurance cover for those willing to be caregivers.

There are still some salient posers which demand urgent anwers: Are we prepared for this kind of medical emergency? How do we get proper and well equipped quarantine centers within the shortest possible time?  How do we find caregivers that would be willing to work at quarantine centers? And even if we get caregivers, are they well trained to handle this kind of situation? At the various ports of entry, should an Ebola infected person be identified  what measure should be taken immediately?




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