Sierra Leoneans in despair as Doctor Willoughby succumbs to Ebola

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 December 2014

Dr Victor WilloughbySierra Leone’s top physician – Dr. Victor R. Willoughby, this morning succumbed to the deadly Ebola virus, just four days after he was officially pronounced Ebola positive by the country’s chief medical officer – Dr. Brima Kargbo. (Photo of Dr. Willoughby, taken just days before he was confirmed Ebola positive).

Medical sources say Dr. Willoughby’s condition drastically deteriorated last night, after serious multiple organ failure, which left him in deep coma.

Today, Sierra Leone has been plunged into darkness, with the preventable loss of another doctor. How much more can the people of Sierra Leone endure.

The remains of the diseased doctor will be laid to rest at the Ascension Town Cemetery in Freetown later today, by the Ebola burial team.

Dr. Willoughby is the 11th Sierra Leonean doctor to have so far succumbed to the deadly Ebola virus, just as preparations are being made for the trialing of the convalescence serum therapy – a treatment for Ebola, he personally championed. Ebola’s cruelty.

But as junior doctors in the country continue their limited industrial action, in response to the intolerably high death rates among medical staff, and poor working and contractual conditions, the question for the Koroma government still remains: Why are lessons not being learnt?

When news of the passing of the great doctor came, it was brief, but heart-rending: “Just lost Dr. Willoughby this 7am, before Zmmap could thaw and be administered.”

This is what his niece – Dr. Esé Thomas-Macauley said this morning:

Dr Victor Willoughby“It’s sad that I should report this, but I know you all have been praying too. My dearest Uncle, a mentor, teacher, Consultant Physician Specialist… Sierra Leoneans’ Samaritan and Friend… Dr. Victor R Willoughby, passed away this morning. As we mourn this heavy loss, I pray his sweet soul finally rests in sweet peace. We will miss you Uncle Willo. Thanks for sharing your life with us Sir.

“I can’t say thanks enough to those of you who helped him through this final Battle. Doctors Russell and Senesie; the CDC, WHO, emergency staff, and many more, for withstanding these stressful few days, and for still being able to pick my calls, texts, etc…. I know this is your loss too, because you guys are like family to him. But may God richly bless you for not giving up till the end.”

Throughout this morning and afternoon, there have been tremendous outpourings of eulogies and tributes – fit for Kings, paid in respect and in deep honour of Dr. Victor Willoughby.

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These are some of those tributes – many, too painful to read:

“Dr. Willoughby was a very close family friend and doctor. We talked about everything under the sun. He was such a brilliant and dedicated medical practitioner. It’s a great loss, but Allah knows best – May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

RIP Victor.jpg3“Dr Willoughby was so much more than words can say. He was more than a lecturer, more than a doctor. He was a father to us all. He gave new meaning to the word TEACHER. My dad died and he just took me under his wing completely. He printed notes for me and gave me cds and books. My laptop crashed – he took it and had it repaired. He’d give me presentations in class and turn around and find all the materials for me. He called me – and I never knew it was for the last time, to ask if I was taking my vitamins and my jelly water to build up my immune system. I told him my Vitamin C was too sour. So he sent me the flavoured ones. And that’s just some of what he did for me. We can’t say all the good things he’s done. The extra mile he went for us – his students. So devastated. May he rest in perfect peace, because he deserves it so much.” (Photos: Dr. Willoughby laid to rest).

“I was a classmate to his daughter Syrammia during our Sixth form days at Prince of Wales. Dr. Willoughby treated all of us who visited his clinic for free. You just need to mention that you are in class with Syrammia at Prince of Wales – you have free medical….oh, what a great loss. May his soul RIP.”

“He was not my teacher, but I was in Fourah Bay College reading economics, when I became ill on campus. I was so ill that the college nurses who were helping my treatment at the campus hospital, after one week of treatment, advised me to look for a doctor down town if I wanted my life. Poor student – I had no money on me; all my parents were in the province. I braved it out to Dr Willoughby’s clinic. The nurses could not let me in, but somehow he heard our discussions from his office. I don’t know how. He called me into his office, and I told him my problem. He asked me to take off my clothes and he did my tests. He gave me drugs, gave me money for my transportation, gave me a warm smile, and I left his office. I never went back to see him. Now I am a Major in the army and a lecturer at IPAM – all because of this man – Dr Willoughby. May his perfect soul rest in perfect peace. May perpetual light shine on his family in the mighty name of Jesus.”

RIP Victor.jpg2“I went to our office staff Christmas celebration on 22 December, 2001. I was served food from the buffet table by a colleague. I ate part of the salad, fried rice and just a single bite off the fish-in-batter. I swallowed that piece of fish, and the rest is history!!! God used the dedication and commitment of Dr. Victor Willoughby and his team of Consultants to see me through that storm. I was in 4 months of unexplained coma – December 2000 – April 2001; clinically dead 3 times. He led the team of Medical Consultants with all dedication. To God is all the Glory. This was my personal doctor. He was there for me all through my ordeal. Today he is no more. My soul is full of sorrow. Ebola, God punish you and all that are connected to YOU.”

“With all the doctors in my family – Dr Willoughby was also my doctor since school time, and he never asked for a dime – never expected anything. He was a true over-generous doctor; a brain too valuable to lose – the father of all doctors in Sierra Leone. In March this year, when I actually had an hidden malaria, and all the half baked labs in Sierra Leone were giving wrong results and could not detect malaria, the great doctor took time off work – spending hours with me, trying to find a reason for my fever. He kept on telling me; ‘don’t worry we will crack this’. And indeed, he did and insisted the labs had to be wrong. It was a challenge for him, not a job. And surely, leaving his practice for half the day, spending it with me at no charge – it’s hard to find and really don’t have the words to describe such a dedicated and caring person, whose only focus is to cure the sick. Sierra Leone and the world have lost a brain. He deserves better. But again, this is always the result when you give your all to the world, let alone the people of Sierra Leone.”

RIP Victor“Again, the loss of such an invaluable asset to the medical profession and Sierra Leone as a whole, further brings to question – our sincerity as individuals and as a country, to honestly evaluate our lapses and inabilities to provide the much needed leadership to our various institutions. We have simply failed our children and the yet unborn generation. We keep losing Doctors regularly, and we seem to be going through the same cycle of praying, hoping for evacuations overseas, blaming, etc, etc. This has not saved a single doctor. Why can’t we start accepting the fact that if we do not change our approach, Dr Willoughby will not be the last? The statistics derived from the dead doctors so far, shows it is all about the clinicians and those at the front line who are at risk. My suggestion is this; let us for a start identify say 10 Doctors and insure them with an international insurer. The persistent passing away of our loved ones, our heroes, our patriots, is slowly killing us. Dr. Willoughby – the gentleman, the selfless professional, accredited locally and internationally, the medical cotton tree of our nation; the one who kept in secret our medical histories; the one on whom the medical pride of our nation anchors. Dr. Willoughby – one of our most experienced medical doctors. You – who have saved a countless number of lives – the devilish Ebola… this demonic disease, this troubler of the nation called Ebola, have mercilessly taken away. May God grant YOU – Dr. Willoughby, paradise; and may your soul rest in perfect peace.”

Sierra Leone Telegraph Editor’s Note:

Rest in perfect peace – Big Man. Today the nation – your people, mourn your passing. But your memory lives on.

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