Gone and forgotten: Nurse who died of Ebola virus after attending to Patrick Sawyer

ON August 6, 2014, exactly 18 days after resuming a new job at First Consultants Medical Centre in Obalende area of Lagos, late Justina Ejelonu, a 25-year-old nurse, died of Ebola virus.

Ejelonu was the attendant nurse to Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old Liberian-American who was the first recorded case of Ebola in Nigeria. Sawyer flew from Liberia to Nigeria’s most populous city of Lagos on July 20, 2014.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe illness which symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, with a capability of impairing kidney and liver function as well as lead to internal and external bleeding.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population via direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

Ejelonu in an old Facebook post had disclosed that she helped the patient feed and constantly checked his vitals. She however said she never came in contact with his fluids.

“I never contacted his fluids. I checked his vitals, helped him with his food (he was too weak)…..I basically touched where his hands touched and that’s the only contact. Not directly with his fluids.

“At a stage, he yanked off his infusion and we had blood everywhere on his bed…..but d ward maids took care of that and changed his linens with great precaution,” the late nurse’s post on facebook read.

The young nurse spent the following days in quarantine before her eventual demise.

After her death, Nigeria continued to battle Ebola, with the aim of containing and eliminating the virus,  recording success in September 2014.

On September 22, 2014, Onyebuchi Chukwu, the-then Nigerian health ministry announced, “As of today, there is no case of Ebola in Nigeria.

“All listed contacts who were under surveillance have been followed up for 21 days.

“According to the WHO, 20 cases and 8 deaths had been confirmed, including the imported case, who also died.”




     

     

    It’s been six years since the passing of Ejelonu and Nigeria has not recorded any case of Ebola since.

    However, Ejelonu, alongside her colleagues, including late Ameyo Adadevoh, a Nigerian physician credited to have curbed further spread of Ebola despite pressure from powerful forces, have been long forgotten.

    As Nigerians remember her demise, some took to social media to pour out their sympathies, expressing disappointment that her likes haven’t been immortalized by the government.

    In a tweet, a Twitter user identified as Felix Obasi shared that it’s been six years and the young late nurse is yet to be immortalised, he however added that she remains embedded in the hearts of many who remember her sacrifice and dedication.

    Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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