The widow of late Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian who brought Ebola into Nigeria, has defended her husband’s decision to travel to Africa’s most populous country, saying he did so in desperate search for a country with better healthcare system than his own country.
In an article published earlier today, TMZ Liberia Magazine quoted Decontee Sawyer, who is a radio host in New York, as explaining that Mr. Sawyer had no trust in the healthcare system in Liberia and had possibly headed to Nigeria with the hope of receiving better treatment for his ailment.
Mrs. Sawyer shared her thoughts on her Facebook profile from which TMZ Liberia sourced it for publication.
“I’ve read other reports in other papers (not the New York Times) about Patrick’s “recklessness.” I get where they’re coming from, and they certainly have the right to feel the way they do. However, as Patrick’s widow, I would like to shed some light on this from another perspective. One that only I, his wife, would know,” she wrote.
“I knew Patrick better than anybody else (including himself). He had told me many times in the past how much he didn’t trust the Liberian healthcare system. He would tell me about how a person would get checked in for one thing, and get misdiagnosed and get the wrong treatment as a result. On top of that, Patrick was a clean freak, and told me how filthy a lot of the hospitals were.
“He didn’t tell me this, but I know in my heart of hearts that Patrick was determined to get to Nigeria by all means because he felt that Nigeria would be a place of refuge. He has expressed to me many times in the past that he felt passionately about helping to be a part of strengthening Liberia’s healthcare system, but he knew it wasn’t there yet, and he wouldn’t want to take a chance with his life because a lot of people depended on him… Patrick had a passion for life, and he wouldn’t have wanted his to end. So, I bet anything that he was thinking, if I could only get to Nigeria, a way more developed country than Liberia, I would be able to get some help. How ironic.”
Many Nigerians, and even Liberians, condemned Mr Sawyer for traveling to Nigeria despite knowing that he was carrying Ebola virus before embarking on the trip. Some Nigerians on social media have described him as a “biological terrorist” arguing that he came into the country deliberately to spread the disease.
On Monday in Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan described Mr Sawyer’s decision to travel to Nigeria as pure “madness” and “craziness.”
“Sawyer that brought this Ebola to Nigeria; his sister died of Ebola. And he started acting somehow, his country asked him not to leave the country, let them observe him, but the crazy man decided to leave and found his way here,” President Jonathan said.
In her post, Mrs. Sawyer wrote that the fact that her husband avoided contact with others at the James Sprigg Payne’s Airport in Monrovia as revealed by airport CCTV footage proved he didn’t set out to infect others with the disease and perhaps his actions were that of a dying man in desperate search for help.
“It has been reported that Patrick avoided physical contact with everyone he came across during his trip from Liberia to Nigeria. When he got to Nigeria, he turned himself in letting them know that he had just flown in from Liberia.
“Patrick went to Nigeria for help so that he can get properly diagnosed, and not misdiagnosed in Liberia. And if it came back that he did have Ebola, he trusted the Nigerian healthcare system a lot more than he trusted the Liberian’s. His action, as off as it was, was a desperate plea for help. Patrick didn’t want to die, and he thought his life would be saved in Nigeria.”
Mrs. Sawyer then took a swipe at the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who said Mr Sawyer was indiscipline and disrespectful for failing to heed medical advise not to travel.
Mrs Sawyer said if President Johnson-Sirleaf had fixed the healthcare system in Liberia, her husband would not have left in search of treatment elsewhere.
“I write today, not simply because of Patrick, but because of the broken healthcare system in the Liberia, and the government’s inability under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (and other past Presidents) to fix it. Good doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers aren’t given the support they need to save lives.
“President Sirleaf went on CNN News throwing stones at Patrick, a man who can no longer defend himself, a man who worked tirelessly for Liberia. She should be ashamed of herself. I use to admire this woman, and was excited and proud of her accomplishment as the first woman President in the entire continent of Africa. She will always own that. We will always own that. It can’t be taken away from her. It’s something to be proud of. But this woman has failed her country,” she wrote.
Nigeria was free of Ebola until July 20 when Mr. Sawyer arrived.
He became terribly ill on his flight and was rushed to the First Consultant Hospital Obalende, Lagos, where he died on July 24.
Nigeria’s Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said on Monday that although the Liberian government has apologized for the incidence, it was pertinent to note that Nigeria was free of Ebola Virus until its importation by the Liberian-American.
Mr. Sawyer’s action, he said, has placed unnecessary stress on Nigeria’s health system.
Since Mr. Sawyer’s death in a Lagos hospital, two other persons who had contact with him have died of the virus. At least eight others have also tested positive to the infection and have been quarantined at a Lagos hospital.
President Goodluck Jonathan has since declared a national emergency on the disease while the federal health ministry in conjunction with health ministries in the 36 states are working to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed over 1,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.