By Magnus onyibe
As l exhale and remain thankful to God for the escape of my family and l from the tumultuous year 2020 that tormented mankind with coronavirus; and as l and other survivors of the horrific 2020, bid the year with the most unprecedented holly burly, goodbye, l welcome year 2021 with the hope that, since over 6 types of coronavirus vaccines are already in use in both Western and Eastern Europe as well as China, the worse may be over with the Covid-19 pandemic that has in the space of less than one year, extraordinarily exterminated nearly 2 million lives worldwide and nearly 1,500 in Nigeria, and still counting.
I particularly recall with great pains in my heart, Dr. Ted lkem Gbemudu, who yielded up the ghost on new year day, 2021 after being struck by a coronavirus.
Dr. Gbemudu who owned a flourishing medical practice in Memphis, Tennessee, USA was visiting Nigeria from the 16th of December to attend an uncle’s funeral ceremony in his hometown Allah, delta, state.
Unbeknownst to him, the stealthy coronavirus was lurking in the air and he was to become a victim of the invisible virus ravaging mankind.
After the ceremony in llah , he arrived in Lagos on Sunday 27 December and a mutual friend of ours, Andy Isichei informed me that Ted was in Lagos and he (Andy) had arranged for him to meet us at a location in Probyn road, ikoyi and l agreed to be there at the appointed time. However, since l was engaged in a writing chore at that point in time, and did not want my trend of thought to be broken, l sent an apology to Andy that l couldn’t keep the appointment and promised to catch up with them the next day.
As Andy would later inform me, while hosting Ted, he noticed that he was coughing. That prompted him to suggest a COVID-19 test on him and the result turned out to be positive.
With no vacant bed situation in all the major hospitals in Lagos, Dr. Gbemudu was admitted into Yaba isolation center, where his condition rapidly deteriorated, such that he needed to be put on a ventilator. But there was only one in the center and it had already been taken up by a patient.
It was while his family was desperately searching for a hospital with a bed and a ventilator that he tragically passed away.
The irony of it all is that, while Dr. Gbemudu was a proud owner of a sprawling medical practice in the USA, where he has saved thousands of lives, he literarily walked into the lion’s den in Nigeria by getting sick while in a country notorious for having shambolic healthcare system. Had he any inkling that he was getting into a sort of cul-de-sac by visiting Nigeria during COVID, he might have stayed back in the USA-an environment where he could have had a fighting chance against the deadly disease which is now the world’s public enemy no 1, with sorrow, tears, and blood as its regular trade mark-apologies to Fela Kuti.
The jarring truth is that with the dearth of medical facilities and perhaps personnel (most have been lost to brain drain) in our country, we are all in dire straights. That’s simply because whenever we fall sick and need critical health care in our country, we probably have less than 20% chance of survival due to the scandalous condition of infrastructure and personnel in our health institutions.
Whereas the rich that comprises about 5% of society can hop into their private jets or the take next flight to foreign countries for medical remedies, the poor is unfortunately confined to making do with healthcare services in our country which has degenerated into an Intensive Care Unit, ICU and a killing field.
Life is such a mystery and a paradox.
Dr. Gbemudu was a life-saving physician in the faraway USA and from the 20th of December 2020 when he decided to visit his homestead, he fell ill and was helpless. A medical doctor who has saved thousands of lives, could not help himself, neither could adequate medical care be provided in his country to save his life. What a cruel twist of fate and irony of life!
About two years ago, when l was in Tennessee, the USA for my annual medical check-up, three medical doctor friends of mine in the Tennessee area -Dr. Emmanuel Obi, Dr Ayo Olusanya, and Dr, lkem Gbemudu were my hosts. I was cared for medically and feted lavishly by the trio throughout the period of my medical evaluation with them. While Gbemudu lived in a sprawling mansion in Nashville, the others were in Jackson, so we were shuttling between both cities.