How rot in LUTH led to US-based Nigerian’s Olaleye Adenibuyan death


How rot in LUTH led to US-based Nigerian’s Olaleye Adenibuyan death

On January 24, 2024, Nigeria lost a patriotic citizen. It lost Mr Olaleye Adenibuyan. He died in circumstances that, at once, confounded, broke the heart, and put a big question mark on Nigeria’s healthcare system.

To not a few people, Adenibuyan’s death was avoidable if only the hospital where he died lived up to its assumed status of a teaching hospital.

Let me confess upfront so you don’t accuse me of being deliberately emotional.

Adenibuyan was my cousin-in-law. A fine gentleman, he was married to my cousin, Thelma. And we admired and loved both of them “die”, as young people would put it.

Theirs was a relationship built on a solid foundation; a partnership rooted in time. They loved wearing uniforms and pranced around like teenagers who just fell in love.

Adenibuyan had served his country, Nigeria, as a police officer before he relocated to the United States of America in 1989. But that relocation never stopped him from visiting his beloved country, his beloved Ondo State, and his more beloved community, Owo, two times every year.

For him, it was a ritual. His love for Nigeria was that strong. And each time he visited, he bought more local fabrics for uniforms for himself and his beloved wife Thelma. In their local fabrics, they promoted Nigeria’s culture, and fashion.

So, this year, 2024, as usual, he set out from his Dallas, Texas, USA base for Nigeria and arrived Lagos on January 14, 2024. Each time he and his wife came home, either together, or separately, they usually checked into a hotel at Ajao Estate. The Estate is close to the Lagos Airport.

For the Adenibuyans, it was convenient as it saved them from the punishing Lagos traffic (we call it go slow) to the airport for a flight to Akure, Ondo State, en route Owo.

So, on January 14, Mr Adenibuyan arrived Lagos and checked into the usual hotel. Luggage did not arrive from the US and so, he needed to buy some things from a shop opposite the hotel. That done, as he climbed up the staircase back to his room, the devil stepped in. Tragedy struck. He missed a step. And fell backwards.

As he fell, the family was told, he hit his head on the floor or wherever. The impact was grave. He lost consciousness. And was quickly rushed to a nearby hospital. I cannot confirm what attention he got there. His state was beyond what a small private hospital could handle. So he was quickly referred to the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, LUTH.

Established in 1961, LUTH is a tertiary hospital affiliated to the University of Lagos College of Medicine. It is a 761-bed hospital established to be a centre of medical excellence. To its credit are some of Nigeria’s best brains in medicine. Many of its products are those “making waves” worldwide. They were trained there. It used to be Nigeria’s pride. As were the University College Hospital, UCH, affiliated to the University of Ibadan, and the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, OAUTH, affiliated to the Obafemi Awolowo University, former University of Ife. And some more.

I don’t know about others, but LUTH has lost its status as a centre of medical excellence. It is now a shadow of itself; a shame to Nigeria. It has deteriorated. With Adenibuyan admitted there, we experienced, firsthand, the shadow LUTH has become. And our hearts broke.

The injury Adenibuyan sustained to the head needed urgent attention. It was a medical emergency. So, he was admitted to the intensive care unit – private wing, no less. Meaning the attention was expected to be top-notch.

When one pays millions of naira, even as the naira has lost its value, the least one would expect would be first-class attention. But not here. There was nothing special. Patients were kept in what I choose to call “an open mini ward”. No privacy. No screen. When the question of some privacy was raised, the answer was: “It is because there is no general monitor.”

Once Thelma heard of her husband’s situation, she began to make arrangements to come home. She works in one of the biggest and best government-owned hospitals in Texas where she has risen to the position of director. So, once she was briefed on the prognosis, she knew she had to rush back to Nigeria. Her mission was to take her husband back with her to the USA once he was stable enough to fly.

Meanwhile, from the US, before she was able to secure a seat on a plane, she and the family rallied around to pay every kobo required, every kobo, directly and indirectly, demanded, officially or unofficially. No expense was spared.

But what did the family see at LUTH?

LUTH had no equipment. Nothing. After the millions of naira deposited, one still had to pay, separately, for soap and gloves. For a scan to determine the extent of damage to the head, Adenibuyan was taken to a private facility outside LUTH. Why? LUTH said its own scan machine was not in “a working condition.” A teaching hospital? The scan showed a lot of blood in the skull. Nothing was done.

A couple of days later, LUTH declared triumphantly that the “bleeding has stopped”. The question we, as laymen, asked was: What about the blood already accumulated there? Our elementary understanding was that the blood “has caked there!” If true, we were nervous about the implication.

More surprises were afoot.

On January 17, three days after he was admitted, LUTH said Adenibuyan needed an intracranial pressure monitoring machine. But this teaching hospital does not have the machine. When needed, it was explained to us, it is rented from outside. Cost: N400,000. The family paid. But the machine was not delivered until January 19th. And when it was delivered, it was left by the corner of Adenibuyan’s bed for days, unused.

Perhaps, it was a coincidence, but the ICP monitoring machine was used only on the day Thelma arrived (24th) and began to ask questions. This was 10 days after he was referred to LUTH, and perhaps, 10 days after it should have been used.

Thelma arrived in Nigeria at about 9.40 am on Delta Airlines and went from the airport to LUTH to see her husband. She waited for about three hours before she was allowed after which she incessantly requested to speak with his medical team. She wanted to know why the ICP had not been put in place as was revealed to her by Lekan, her stepson, who was in Nigeria for a short vacation, and her husband’s younger brother, Deji. She wondered why the machine was just lying down there. When one of the doctors finally arrived, he tried to explain.

But given Thelma’s background, and where she came from, the explanation made no sense to her. She hinted so in many ways, but was, at once very disciplined and too distraught to argue. But finally, she was told another doctor who would do that was being expected.

The doctor, an unassuming guy, competent, calm, and collected finally arrived. We were sitting in the ICU waiting room when he walked past. Instinctively, and I guess, from his carriage, I knew he was the one, and I told Thelma so. She sent a message across that she would want to speak with him.

Over an hour later, the doctor came out from the ICU and asked for Thelma. We followed him. And Thelma had a lot of questions and complaints. He listened, and said he had just returned to the country the previous day, and was seeing Adenibuyan for the first time, but quickly added “he is being attended to by a good team.” He explained to us where he thought he should, and apologised where he thought he should. For example, he agreed with Thelma that it was not right to intubate her husband without informing the family. He apologised it was wrong not to have carried the family along every step of the way. And then, calmly, he told us what the situation was, and the way forward.