By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
IF I had known, if I had seen death coming, if I had listened to my wife calling out to me, Daddy, don’t go, I would have remained in the ward where I would have stayed overnight with my wife and she would be alive today.”
This was the lamentation of Mr. Ausbeth Udebu, bereaved husband of the late Mrs Ngozi Udebu, when Vanguard visited their 4, Church Street residence, Shomolu in Lagos, weekend.
It was a solemn reception as the grieving widower was in a pensive mood as he spoke about his wife of 16 years and mother of four, who it was gathered, died at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, during the Easter break.
For those who know the Udebu family, the pain following the untimely death of the charming 45-year-old secondary school teacher can only be imagined. Investigations revealed that prior to her death, the deceased who was diagnosed with ulcer, had been admitted in Ward A4 at LUTH, but the family is questioning the circumstances surrounding her death. According to Ausbeth, the family is yet to come to terms with the conflict between the laboratory diagnosis for which she had been admitted and the cause of death.
Sudden severe abdominal pain
While the laboratory test results showed ulcer, the autopsy conducted after the death revealed that she died of asphyxia (the loss of consciousness due to the body’s inability to deliver oxygen to its tissues). Ngozi was said to have been referred from a Catholic hospital, Regina Mundi, Mushin, to LUTH, following sudden severe abdominal pain on the evening of Good Friday, March 25, 2016, after efforts to stop the pain proved abortive.
Narrating the sequence of events that led to his wife’s demise, Ausbeth recounted that it all started on that Good Friday after observing Passion Mass at their Church, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church which ended about 6pm and I went with my friends. I was with my friends when my phone rang. I was asked to come back home because my wife was in pain. Ausbeth who initially thought it was a gimmick to bring him home dismissed the call, but his daughter persisted, arguing that the pain was not the usual pain the deceased used to experience during her menstrual cycle.
Worried, he rushed home only to discover it was beyond something he could handle. “ I took her to Regina Mundi Catholic Hospital at Mushin. We were referred to LUTH. At the LUTH Accident and Emergency, A&E, we were received when they saw the referral letter. After a while, they traced the veins and took two bottles of blood and told me to go and do test at Pathcare which I did and the result was ready by 6am.”
He said on returning to the ward, the doctors had written another scan investigation that was also done within an hour.
“Unfortunately, all through this time, my wife was still writhing in severe pain. She was in extreme pains that I have never seen before. After collecting the results, I went straight to the pool of doctors so that they can analyze and maybe take actions. But I got the shock of my life as they asked me to wait until they are ready for ward round. I went back to my wife’s bed which was the first on the line in the section and, unfortunately, she was the last to be seen.
Ausbeth, who accused LUTH doctors and nurses of negligence, said: “We had to wait for over 90 minutes to two hours before they could see us on a case that was supposed to be treated as an emergency. We waited patiently until they came. They looked at the result and said all the vital parameters were in place and in order. They asked me if she had ulcer before and I said no. They even asked me about the kind of food she liked and ate. They were asking me some questions ordinarily I would not have answered but just because I wanted them to attend to my wife I managed to bring up myself to answer them all. At the end they concluded that it was ulcer that was disturbing her.
“That gave me so much hope that they would recommend something for me and my hope was high. They wrote all the drugs for me. Of all the things they wrote, the things they had in their pharmacy was the box of gloves, disinfectant and spirit and cotton wool. The drugs Gascol and other injections were not available which I bought outside.
There was no improvement and they wrote another drug and specified a particular brand that I managed to get after a lot of trouble. This was now on Sunday. We were now moved to the ward because we were told we had stayed up to 48 hours when the rule was 24 hours.
“I did not see anything wrong with that because my wife was still in pain and weak, however I never knew that would mark the beginning of my problem. We were later informed at the Ward A4, that they have a caveat that no patient relations will stay with a patient in the ward. If I had known I would have done everything possible to remain with my wife.
Difficulty in breathing
All persuasions to allow my wife’s sister to stay overnight with her, proved abortive as the nurse in charge insisted we should go.
It was like a drama when I questioned how two nurses would take care of 35 patients in a ward. She said by their training they know how to give priority. I wasn’t convinced but I had to give in. They made me to go and buy oxygen mask at about 9:30 pm, they tested it and assured me it was working. Ausbeth said by this time, his sick wife was already having difficulty breathing because the pain had sustained for a very long time.
He recalled that in the A&E, there was no light. When the first part of the intravenous fluid got blocked, it was a challenge to find another vein. I had to use the use the torch of my phone in order to help the doctor trace the vein.
“They punctured my wife all over and at a point started looking at the leg. The first doctor tried and did not succeed and the more experienced one now came and after much searching he finally got the vein. There was no ventilation. Even the window in the room could not be opened. My wife was restless and uncomfortable. I tried to force it open but I couldn’t.
Further, Ausbeth who called on the Federal government to urgently attend to the state of the hospital said: “During my wife’s stay in the Accident and Emergency ward, the toilet was unusable. The floor was water-logged and I had to personally wade into the toilet to carry the bed pan she used for toilet. No patient could go into the toilet to use it.
“It is a terrible thing and that was why I want the whole world to hear, I am not only saying that the doctors are not doing what they are supposed to do, the government on their part also have a role to play, you cannot be running a big hospital like LUTH and there will be no light for like two days and nothing will be done. The facilities will get bad and will not be maintained, and this is a place where lives should be saved.”
When we returned the next morning to the hospital (Monday) I looked at where I left my wife the previous night, they had already drawn the curtain. I knew what that meant because I lost my uncle in LUTH. They were trying to prevent me from seeing her but I resisted and I saw the lifeless body of my wife, the love of my life for 15 years and mother of my four children laid dead. They never called me, I included my numbers on every form I filled but they never called me.
When I demanded an explanation, that I was not satisfied, the doctor said I should pay for autopsy and I did, after the report came out, they told me that my wife died of asphyxia. These are things that are miles away from the scan and laboratory results. At the end they suffocated my wife just like that.
The essence of granting this interview is because I don’t want people to make the same mistake I made, by agreeing to leave. The policy that does not allow the relative to stay in the ward that has more than 30 patients with only two nurses is not working.
The two nurses did not have capacity to cater for 35 patients at a time.
Meanwhile, inside the hospital there is no CCTV camera, now I have no way of knowing what happened to my wife, assuming there is CCTV, I would have told them to play it back to set the records straight.