November 12, 2017 marks the seventh month since my 18 years old daughter, Kikaose Ebiye-Onyibe, who was on track to graduate in Law next year from the University of Birmingham, UK passed away under circumstances that defy logic.
My former boss, senior brother, mentor in politics, and former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori; adopted senior brother, Mr. Henry lmasekha, and a host of other friends like Mr. Terry Waya, and Dere Otubu as well as others too numerous to mention who stayed with me from dawn to dusk in the early period of the cruel tragedy that befell me and my family on that fateful April 12th have done their best to sooth our pains.
For their kind gesture of support, my family and l thank them profusely from the bottom of our hearts.
Condolences from friends and family far and wide have been like a healing balm, however they have not been enough to ameliorate the horrific anguish that we continue to suffer owing to the irreparable loss of Kikaose.
Not even the phone call from far away China by the governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who was at that time on an investment drive over there, or the phone call from Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who could not make it to the service of songs because he was attending to matters of state in Abuja nor the physical presence of Mr. Donald Duke and Otunba Niyi Adebayo, former governors of Cross River and Ekiti States respectively and Prince Nduka Obaigbena, Publisher of THISDAY newspaper at the solemn event, could close the gaping holes in our hearts.
Although it has been seven months after the pall of darkness fell on us, l still can't see through the fog that has enveloped me since that calamitous day.
Nevertheless, l'm eternally grateful to all those who sacrificed their precious time, particularly those too numerous to mention who like family, felt duty bound to show solidarity to my family and l over the loss of vivacious Kikaose.
From the moment Kikaose stepped inside our home after she was picked up from Lagos Airport in the wee hours of April 11th when she arrived Nigeria with the Virgin Atlantic flight, everything still appears like a movie to me.
This is because she passed away so fast that l can't really deeply reflect on or make any sense of the scenes as they float through my head in these past very painful seven months that Kikaose went to be with her creator.
How could l phantom or come to terms with the horrific reality that barely 18 hours after Kikaose walked into my living room and l gave her a welcome hug and less than 12 hours after she walked into Gold Cross Hospital, Ikoyi without being aided with wheel chair and l later personally wheeled her into the surgery theater to remove her ruptured appendix, life would be prematurely snuffed out of her.
Why were we so carried away by the lights that dazzle in the hospital smack in the heart of opulent Ikoyi while being oblivious of the apparent lack of requisite medical equipment such as a ventilation machine that could have sustained Kikaose's heart during and after the surgery?
Although an ambulance was invited nearly 10 hours after the surgery to take her to Lagoon Hospital in Apapa where there was a life support equipment, Kikaose's situation had degenerated into a crisis level requiring stabilisation before the medics could evacuate her to the hospital with a ventilator.
So in this day and age when patients can be sustained for years in life support machine (the race car driver Jack Schumacher was in a ventilator for years) Kikaose died for lack of adequate medical equipment in a supposedly top tier hospital.
What hope is there for the sick in Nigeria when basic medical equipments stand between live and death? I have said it before l'm reiterating it.
Hospitals should be graded and classified as first, second and third tier, the same way banks are categorised in Nigeria. A first tier hospital should have an agreed high standard of medical equipment installed and top quality personnel working there.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode should pioneer the initiative in Lagos State.
That way patrons can know the level of service to expect when attending any hospital based on its classification as 1st, 2nd or 3rd tier.
If that's done, there won't be surprises like "we don't have ventilator here so we have to take the patient to another hospital for ventilation."
In the first instance, why was the patient not directed to the hospital with the appropriate equipment and personnel to deal with his or her condition? The lives of Nigerians should not be used to play Russian roulette in Nigerian hospitals.
Now, many Nigerians have upbraided president Muhammadu Buhari for seeking medical solution to his ailment in England. Could you imagine if our president had relied on State House Clinic where billions of Naira is appropriated annually, yet it had no syringes and other basic supplies as recently alleged by First Lady Aisha and her daughter, Zhara?
Nigerian medical situation needs emergency intervention and it is a no brainer to conclude that medical tourism out of Nigeria resulting in exportation of estimated $1 billion annually, (as confirmed by Minister of State, Health, Osagie Ehanire) would continue to constrain the nation's fragile economy, if urgent remedial measures are not taken to address the situation.
Ironically, it is the same British medical system where President Buhari sort and received solution to his health challenge that was unable to correctly diagnose Kikaose's ailment after five visits to her GP in four months.
The difference is that while Kikaose's medical treatment was under the auspices of the highly compromised British public health system known as NHS, President Buhari obtained medical care as a private patient which enabled him receive better attention since fees are paid directly to the hospital and doctors.
This is an experience which l have learnt the hard way and which l don't want other families to suffer hence l'm discussing it openly.
Specifically, the lesson inherent in the circumstances above is that parents should not rely on public healthcare system like NHS in the UK solely for the care of their children. It maybe a school requirement which has to be fulfilled but it's wise to have a back up by arranging registration with private hospitals.
Kikaose's sudden death still remains unsolved mystery to her siblings, mum and as we have remained bewildered by the inability of British doctors in Bourne Brooke Varsity Medical Centre and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK respectively, to properly diagnose her ailment which was simply appendicitis.
We wish we knew about the NHS bogey, Kikaose might be alive today.
While still unable to phantom how her ailment was misdiagnosed in the UK until she returned to Nigeria where she was diagnosed correctly, Kikaose passed away due to lack of adequate medical care and infrastructure in a Nigerian hospital which amounts to double jeopardy. After the woeful experience in Birmingham owing to lack of commitment and therefore inability to diagnose appendix until it ruptured, non availability of life saving facilities in Nigerian hospital became the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
It's outrageous that, seven months after Kikaose's demise under strange circumstances, we have been demanding but are yet to receive from the British NHS Kikaose's full medical records. It's even worse that the records that we have received so far was made possible by threat of legal action for non compliance of British medical authorities with their own laws which states that we have the full rights to our departed daughter's medical records to determine if she received proper care or otherwise.
Till date, the system seem to have been succeeding in conspiring to conceal the last record which is Kikaose's interaction with midland ambulance service that was invited to pick her up after she fainted, but failed to do so for reasons yet to be explained.
Even the fact that an ambulance was called, was not disclosed to us in the initial report, but we found out from Kikaose's phone records and her school mates that called the ambulance which actually came by. But instead of taking her to the hospital for urgent care, only some analgesic were dispensed to her, after which she was advised to see her GP.
She dutifully saw the GP who instead of recommending a scan that could have detected her ruptured appendix, opted to conduct urine text and concluded wrongly that Kikaose had Urinary Tract Infection, UTl and she was given three days doses of nitroforentin-an antibiotic.
Shortly after misdiagnosing Kikaose's ailment as UTI, the GP discovered upon proper review of the laboratory report that her ailment was not UTI but indeed it was the toxins from her ruptured appendix that oozed into her cavities that was detected in her urine test that was misinterpreted as UTI.
At the time their mistake was discovered and it was realised that wrong diagnoses was made, Kikaose was already airborne to Lagos for proper treatment of UTI since it was adjudged by her mum that three days dosage of antibiotic prescribed for an infection that was assumed to have persisted for about four months was inadequate.
It took a Nigerian doctor and medical laboratory in Lagos to diagnose Kikaose's ailment as ruptured appendix after a CT scan but unfortunately she passed away during surgery due to lack of requisite life saving equipment in the hospital.
After discovering the that it was ordinary appendix that was left undetected until it ruptured, Kikaose, as a lawyer in the making had vowed to sue the medical authorities for negligence when she returned to school- a vow she was unable to keep because her precious little Iife was terminated in the course of surgery on April 12th.
Kikaose's premature death is a clear case of negligence on the part of the medical personnel who attended to her and they were also racists.
From what l gleaned from her medical records, instead of diligently trying to identify the girl's ailment through scan and other traditional methods, they focused attention on her country of origin and the gastronomic or culinary culture of Nigeria and wrongfully concluded that her palate must be unaccustomed to British food hence she was experiencing pangs of pains in her abdomen.
Now, if anybody is wondering why seven months after Kikaose's sudden passage, it has remained ingrained in my mind, here are some reasons for my consistency in trying to unravel the strange circumstances surrounding her premature demise and what has been discovered so far for other families to learn from.
Following our interrogation of the system we now know from the medical records which we have received in bits and pieces in the last seven months that:
(1) Kikaose had full confidence in British medical system and by extension her Majesty the Queen of England by attending hospital to see her general practitioner, GP 5 times from December to April before she passed away.
She also followed all the medical advise given to her, even if she was always in pain in between the three weeks long appointments that she always received.
Unfortunately, the system failed her by misdiagnosing her ailment as Urinary Tract Infection, UTI instead of appendicitis.
(2)Rather than directly addressing her ailment when she reported that her tummy was aching and it might have arisen from improperly preserved pizza that she had eaten, records show that the doctors and medics that attended to Kikaose were preoccupied with the fact that she was from Nigeria and her system may not be used to British food and concluded that she must be suffering from gastritis. That was borne out of a wrong and racist mindset because Kikaose might not have been British, but at age four, she was already in kindergarten school in Los Angeles California, USA.
And as her international passport would attest, she had been on vacation to Europe, USA and Dubai every summer before and after she got admitted into the Law degree programme in Birmingham in 2015.
In fact she might have lived in more Western cities than the medical personnel that were judging her based on her race and place of birth at a time that they should have been focusing on her complaint.
Besides that, since she had already spent two years plus in Birmingham at the time of her ailment, how could her gastronomic system not be used to British food?
Despite the lack of diligence by the medics that should offer her the duty of care, Kikaose literally took the bull by the horns (what a brilliant lawyer she could've been) by assertively demanding from a white elderly GP that she should be booked for a scan as she suspected that had stones in her gall bladder. She came to that conclusion perhaps after engaging in research online to figure out the reason for the excruciating pains she was experiencing. According to kikaose's medical records, the GP acceded to her request on March 27, but she was not given appointment for the scan to be performed on her by the laboratories until April 15-three days after she passed away in lagos, Nigeria.
(3) Two invitation letters from the laboratory, Health Harmonies Ltd dated April 9th and 15th were found in her mail box when l arrived her apartment in Birmingham after she passed.
The letter dated 9th was postmarked 15th which was same postmark on the second reminder letter dated 15th.
Incidentally, the laboratory, Health Harmonies is located in the same area with Kikaose's hostel in Selly Oaks, Birmingham, so mails should be received the same day.
My belief is that the letter dated 9th of April but postmarked 15th was fraudulently backdated hence it carries the postmark of the same 15th when the second reminder letter was purportedly written and posted.
I suspect that both the first and second letters were written at the same time with the first and posted same day (15th) and not 9th as they would like us to believe.
It is my belief that as soon as Kikaose's passage on the 12th broke in the social media, both the hospital and laboratory scrambled to cover up their tracks by belatedly dispatching invitation letters for the scan which should have by British law,been conducted at least two days after it was recommended on the 27th of March.
They did not reckon that the post mark on the letters will betray their deceit and damn right fraud.
In order to properly understand the negligence of the medical authorities in Birmingham, please keep in mind that Kikaose did not depart Birmingham until April 10, nearly two weeks after she requested for and did not receive a scan that could have saved her life.
(4) Both Bourne Brooke Varsity medical center and Queen Elizabeth Hospital records of care or lack of it, given to Kikaose did not contain the fact that ambulance service was called, it came by, but for reasons yet to be disclosed by the medics, Kikaose was not conveyed to the hospital for urgent medical attention, as she should have.
Perhaps, if the ambulance team had done the needful, Kikaose might be alive today as her appendix which had just ruptured and caused her to faint could have been diagnosed and removed immediately.
But instead, she had to live with the excruciating pains from ruptured appendix for about two weeks as she was involuntarily and horrifically poisoning herself since all the toxins in the appendix (which is a sort of receptacle of human waste) had emptied into her abdomen and other cavities damaging her critical organs.
If the medical and judicial authorities in Birmingham, U.K. won't do justice by bringing to account those whose sheer negligence resulted in Kikaose's compromised appendicitis not being diagnosed for about four months until it ruptured and led to her death, as a loving father, l owe her the duty to do justice to her memory by writing about her constantly to serve as a compass to other parents on how to avert the loss of their beloved children studying or living abroad due to the recklessness of some unscrupulous medical personnel.
It is said that in life, we learn everyday.
So in these past months we have found companions in grief and sometimes learn lessons from those who have suffered similar loss of loved ones and how they grieve or not, to serve as compass.
For instance, while I have found it very difficult not to be crest fallen since the departure of Kikaose some seven months ago, others who suffered have recently suffered similar fate have taken their loss with equanimity, which is quite admirable.
Take for instance the sudden death of Babajide Tinubu the first son of the former governor of Lagos State and APC national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The tribute by the grieving father, "l wish l could bring back my son but l cannot" resonated so well with me and helped lighten the burden of Kikaose's death off me.
Prior to my reading the tribute, l had been on a guilt trip as l was gripped by the feeling that l might have fallen short of my duty as a father hence l could not prevent Kikaose from dying so young and so painfully.
This is because before wheeling kikaose into the theater for surgery on that fateful day, l had assured her that although l can't be inside with her, l would be with her in spirit and as a fighter she would come out alive to which she concurred.
Kikaose made it out of the surgery theater quite alright, but she passed away after struggling to make it out of the hospital alive without success owing to inadequate medical equipment.
Given that in an interview in a campus newsmagazine she had listed me as her hero, one question that kept tugging at my heart is: Could there have been anything l could have done to save kikaose's life?
If there could have been any opportunity to trade mine for hers, might l not have taken the chance?
Kikaose, if you can hear me, l'll be privileged to be your dad again and again in as many lifetimes as possible.
Before the Jide Tinubu tragedy, Dapo Abiodun, an oil magnate had also lost his first son Olugbenga to the cold hands of death barely a month ago. He also was a youth, being 27 years of age, just like Jide Tinubu, who was 37.
Eugene Annenih, one of the sons of Chief Tony Annenih, and my very good friend, who was about 50 also passed away due to cardiac arrest within the past six months too.
That makes the year 2017 a remarkably sad one for Nigerian youths.
The relatively young age of the departed souls is the reason their sudden death has left very deep scars in the hearts of our families and friends.
Kikaose was just 18 years of age and was on track to graduate as a lawyer next year and l was looking forward to her graduation ceremony before she got snatched away by death in her prime. Would l organise a post humous graduation ceremony for her next year?
However, the collateral beauty in Kikaose's call to glory is that she passed away on April 12, during the holiest month in Christendom which is when Easter, the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated.
As a disciple of Christ and one of her fellowship leaders on campus, Kikaose was On The Word and therefore 'on fire' for God.
In a brief conversation with her mum before the surgery, she affirmed that she was assured of her place with Jesus Christ in the great beyond if she did not make it out of the surgery theater alive.
I pray everyday to God that Kikaose's desire to be with Jesus has been fulfilled.
Accordingly, l have been waiting on our Heavenly Father to show me my precious little daughter with a view to seeing how she is doing in her new location.
Last week, God was merciful as l saw Kikaose in my dream and l anxiously sort to know if she was happy and well.
She was happy and very calm.
In very few words, she requested that l get her a camera so that she can capture the beauty of heaven for me.
The dream has relieved me of the monumental burden of separation which l have been grappling with since her sudden departure.
Incidentally, in the course of my grieving, Kikaose's younger sister, Ebubechukwu who was with her at home in the short time she spent at home before she was taken to the hospital and was with her even in the hospital before she entered the theatre, told me that Kikaose was seeing heaven even before she passed away and pointed out that if Kikaose had the choice of coming back to life, she was convinced that she would prefer the opportunity of staying with Jesus Christ in heaven.
She came to that persuasion because Kikaose was speaking so much about rapture.
Although, psychologists may conclude that sometimes the thoughts that float in the minds of people experiencing bereavement may be hallucinations, it does help that fond memories are made of fallen loved ones.
If nothing else, bereavement hallucination is both redemptive and therapeutic as it can be quite consoling.
By the way, has any one watched the movie titled 'Collateral Beauty' featuring Will Smith, the former star of American TV comedy series Different World?
Well, the title of this article is somehow derived from the movie-Collateral Beauty
It's about how inconsolable an advert executive became when he lost his daughter which is more or less the sort of nerve wracking experience that l have had to cope with in real life.
It's intriguing how life can sometimes mimic art or vice versa.
Even though Kikaose is gone, she lives on in our minds
*Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and former commissioner in Delta State is the father of Kikaose Ebiye-Onyibe