Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who brought Ebola into the country, was a bio-terrorist, bent on a mission to deliberately infect as many Nigerians as possible with the deadly virus, the Chief Medical Director of First Consultant Hospital, Benjamin Ohiaeri, has said.
In a detailed interview with ThisDay newspaper, Mr. Ohiaeri spoke of how Mr. Sawyer lied to his hospital that he had no contact with any Ebola case and how he plotted to be allowed to storm the streets of Nigeria to spread the virus.
He also revealed shocking details of how Mr Sawyer deliberately and systematically infected hospital personnel with the virus.
He said the Liberian- American was not interested in receiving treatment or discussing the option available to him. Rather he demonstrated a deliberate intent to be discharged from the hospital into the public where he would have posed dire public health risk.
According to Mr Ohiaeri, he even deceptively infected a doctor who had gone to appeal to him to be calm following his violent protest to be let out of the hospital to attend a seminal in Calabar.
Mr Ohiaeri said the coldblooded manner Mr Sawyer purportedly went about infecting medical personnel at the hospital even after he was told he might be infected with the highly contagious virus suggested he was on a bio-terrorism mission to Nigeria.
On July 20, 2014, after he became ill on a flight from Monrovia to Lagos, Mr Sawyer was taken to the First Consultant Hospital in Lagos which originally treated him for malaria. But as his health worsened and began to manifest symptoms of Ebola, including diarrhea and vomiting, he was prevented from leaving the hospital.
According to multiple accounts of what happened in the days after he was taken to First Consultant Hospital, Mr. Sawyer went into a fit of rage, yanking off his intravenous line and spilling blood all over the hospital ward after he was told he would not be allowed out of the hospital as he had requested.
Eighteen Nigerians, mostly medical officials of the hospital, were infected with the virus, with seven deaths. All of the infections were traced to Mr Sawyer.
In the ThisDay interview, Mr Ohiaeri said Mr. Sawyer was not “upset” or “surprised” after he was told that he was being investigated for possible Ebola infection suggesting that he already knew that he was a carrier of the disease.
“A reasonable man would flinch when he is informed that he is going to be tested for Ebola. A reasonable man would want to know why the suspicion and what his chances of survival are and how he is going to be treated.”
“A reasonable man would not say “I must leave the hospital now!” This was very strange to us because being an articulate forty-year diplomat we expected some measure of intelligent conversation on this dreaded disease. So, we could not understand why he was so desperate and determined to leave the Hospital when we were clearly trying to investigate his situation and find the way to treat his condition.”
A review of CCTV footage from the James Spriggs Payne’s Airport, Monrovia, by Liberian newspaper, The New Dawn, suggested that Mr Sawyer was already terribly ill when he left Liberia and deliberately avoided contact with people at the airport, which suggested that he might have known he was infected with Ebola.
Though Mr Sawyer told doctors at the First Consultant that he did not have contact with any Ebola case in the weeks before he travelled to Lagos, it has now been revealed that he cared for and attended the funeral of his sister who was killed by the virus in Liberia.
In fact he was asked to stay away from work after he told his employers, ArcelorMittal, an iron mining company, of having minimal contact with his deceased sister.
Mr Ohiaeri also told ThisDay that Mr. Sawyer also deceptively infected one of the doctors who had gone to calm him after he went into a violent rage.
“Dr. Abaniwo, of his own volition, went to try to convince Mr. Sawyer to calm down and give the hospital the chance to make him better. Dr. Abaniwo is a deeply religious man who would have felt convicted to speak to Mr Sawyer – to ensure that he was alright. Sawyer seemed to calm down a little, but he then did something terrible, which caused Dr. Abaniwo to contract Ebola. He asked Dr. Abaniwo to check his eyes because his eyes had been previously injected. It is through this singular act of kindness that Dr. Abaniwo contracted the disease. Sadly, it took the confirmation of Dr. Abaniwo as Ebola carrier for the fullness of his encounter with Mr. Sawyer to be told.”
Mr Abaniwo was one of the seven people who were killed by the virus.
“What was unique about Mr. Sawyer’s condition was that Mr. Sawyer did not want to be treated and he wanted to be a terrorist and go out of his way to infect other people. Ordinary patients don’t do that. It’s bad enough taking care of Ebola and trying to bring in other people to assist. Ebola victims all over the world are begging ‘please come and help me’. But Mr. Sawyer didn’t want to be helped,” Mr Ohiaeri said.
Mr Ohiaeri also disclosed how his hospital came under intense pressure, included the threat of legal action and diplomatic row from the Liberian ambassador, Al Hassan Koike, for Mr. Sawyer to be released to attend the seminar in Calabar.
He said his threats were rebuffed by the strong resolve of Ameyo Adadevoh, the Chief Physician of the hospital, who became infected by Mr. Sawyer and later died of the disease.
“As if Sawyer’s behaviour were not bad enough, we soon began to receive irate calls from the Liberian Ambassador, Al Hassan Koike, who had apparently been contacted by Sawyer. The Ambassador repeatedly badgered Dr Adadevoh, ordering that Sawyer be permitted to leave the hospital and telling her that we had no authority or right to keep him. All of Dr. Adadevoh’s attempts to explain the situation, and my subsequent attempts to intervene, were shrugged off. The only thing the ambassador wanted was for Sawyer to be released, otherwise we would face charges of ‘kidnapping’. The threats were ratcheted up to the extent that he accused us of threatening an international diplomatic row, the consequences of which, he insisted, we would sorely regret,” he said.
“I took the phone from Dr. Adadevoh and tried to advise Ambassador Al Hassan Koike about our position, to assure him about our regard for the fundamental rights of Mr. Sawyer, and to advise him of the risks to Sawyer and the general public of failure to properly manage a potential Ebola situation. The ambassador was having none of it.
“Well there have been many thoughts that have crossed my mind as to the role of the Liberian ambassador in trying to secure Sawyer’s release. There is no doubt in my mind that he was a reckless person because a diplomatic mission is supposed to have rules and there is only so much that they can interfere with. Did we tell him it was Ebola? Yes we did and what was his response to that? He asked us “how are you sure”. He accused us of just trying to disparage his country and embarrass Liberia. Even when the results were out and it was confirmed positive by W.H.O lab officials, he said he wanted to see the report. Of course by that time I didn’t have time for him anymore and I just disregarded his requests because I realised that this is someone that is unreasonable. He of course became a non-issue when President Goodluck Jonathan instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs to come and talk to me when he heard about it. Once I relayed the full facts to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he immediately fired up a letter of protest to the Liberian government that led to the recalling of the ambassador. It was clear that he had contravened diplomatic protocol and that he had acted in bad faith.”
Mrs. Adadevoh has been posthumously praised for her good judgement in keeping Mr. Sawyer quarantined even before test result confirmed he was a carrier of Ebola at the expense of her wellbeing and for resolutely resisting pressure to discharge him from the hospital with its possible public health risk.
A thoroughbred professional
Mr Ohiaeri paid glowing tribute to Mrs. Adadevoh describing her as a “thoroughbred professional” and one of the most brilliant doctors the country has ever had.
He praised her for her resolve not to succumb to the pressure from Mr. Sawyer and the Liberian Ambassador and putting her life in line for the safety of the populace.
“We all knew Dr. Adadevoh. She is thorough, incisive, competent and compassionate. After 21 years of working with a person, you know them. We trusted her – We trusted her judgement. Here was one situation where the risks to us of getting it wrong was disproportionately insignificant to the risks to Nigerians if we unleashed an Ebola patient on an unsuspecting public. No one would be able to curtail the fallout.”
“Dr. Adadevoh, was one of the most brilliant physicians this country has ever produced. She always asked for the latest infrastructure and was always research oriented. Any medical course anywhere she will come and say “Oga there is something happening in South Africa and I want to go and do this course” and off she went. She attended various medical courses all over the world.
“As professionals, we always equip ourselves with new research orientations and best practices. Of course medical conferences help to build up knowledge, professional relationships and contacts – all of which proved invaluable when this Ebola crisis hit our hospital. We depended a lot and benefitted from our international relationships.”
The interview on which this story was based was first published by THISDAY. We are publishing this excerpt with their permission.