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The price of a life

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
25 September 2021   |   3:00 am
On September 15, the Lagos cycling community lost a much loved and respected brother, General Mabogs, Afolabi Mabogunje after a week’s battle in the hospital

[FILES] Cyclists

On September 15, the Lagos cycling community lost a much loved and respected brother, General Mabogs, Afolabi Mabogunje after a week’s battle in the hospital, following an attack he suffered on September 9. I didn’t know him, but it seems we had friends in common. Especially as a cyclist, albeit in another part of the world, I couldn’t process the circumstances of his death. His brother’s tribute goes over the events of that fateful morning as follows:

My brother was riding early on Thursday morning, September 9, 2021, at about 5 am, as he has done for about 10 years now or more. He was at the meetup point – the same one as always. Then, two guys with knives attacked him from behind, while he was off his bicycle and making a phone call to his co-cyclers, stabbing him on both sides of his neck, right side of his chest and left arm.

On the right side, a gory wound got the internal jugular vein apart from any other structures. The left got a superficial branch of the internal jugular. While struggling/ fighting off the guys his phone dropped, they grabbed it, jumped on a waiting motorcycle and sped off.

He was gushing out blood with each contraction of the right atrium. He needed help, got on his bicycle, held it with one hand, the other handheld his neck wound and rode to a nearby police post, but the police were not there. Then he rode to a nearby bank where the security guard had a phone with no credit or data. They were lucky a passer-by was able to help him call his wife. She came to the spot, picked him up, threw his bicycle in the trunk of the car and sped off to the nearest hospital, Gbagada General Hospital!”

What follows reads like a long chain of avoidable errors:
“They sutured the smaller wounds, gave IV fluids, but had no CTSU on the ground, so he had to be transferred to LASUTH that had CTSU. Then we hit phase 3 delay – accessing the correct care, at the correct time, in the correct way even after finally getting to the hospital!

We got there at about 8 am, surgery started at about 1.30 pm, no pre-op resuscitation because they had NO BLOOD! We had to send it to Gbagada GH for blood. Friends wanted to donate, but the LASUTH blood bank said because of the ongoing ARD strike, they didn’t have facilities to bleed the donors!

We were in surgery till about 5.20 pm. He was under-transfused, as far as I was concerned. He never woke up from anaesthesia! He battled the robbers, he fought for his life, we battled the system and systemic failures; everything that could go wrong went wrong!”

Reading this account broke my heart, not only because Mabogunje was the victim of a senseless attack; he was also the victim of inadequacies, which are the outcomes of a broken system…

There are similar tales of the senseless loss of life in other parts of the so-called ‘developing world. While such labels have always made me feel uneasy, in the ‘developed world, the price of life isn’t so cheap. A cyclist in the UK has to worry about unruly drivers, black ice on the road perhaps on winter days, mechanical malfunctions that could lead to crashes and falls, but very rarely if ever, getting jumped by people on a morning ride, and being stabbed in five places. Even if they were to, with emergency services and care readily and speedily available that they would go on to get the treatment they need at the right time, in the right way as opposed to what happened to Mabogunje after his attack.

It’s when I hear about victims of robberies gone wrong, accidents that could have been prevented, lives stolen that I keep wondering how little the price of human life in parts of the world, just how the system, battered, bent, broken, on its last leg, ticks along to claim its next victim, and then the next… for how much longer?

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