Our breadwinner is gone, where do we start from – Mum, wife of Dubai-returnee who died in Lagos isolation centre

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Grief overwhelmed Mrs Kehinde Kolawole as she spoke with Sunday PUNCH about her son, Tunde Kolawole, who died few days after his return from the United Arab Emirates while observing a 14-day supervised quarantine at a Lagos facility with other returnees.

The Federal Government previously mandated evacuated Nigerians to subject themselves for 14-quarantine in its bid to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

The deceased’s mother who’s into farming with her husband said her late son returned home to seek medical attention after he too ill in Dubai, the UAE capital.

She said, “We plant crops such as maize, corn and others. I trained my two children from farming proceeds. I have two children; the late Tunde Kolawole and his sister. He travelled to the United Arab Emirates to seek greener pastures. He left about two years ago. He took ill three months ago. He said he went to a hospital and was diagnosed with liver problems. He worked in a firm in the UAE. He said he was coming home to treat himself. He took care of us. His father had been ill for some time even before he left the country. He was the one taking care of us. The day he was to leave the UAE for Nigeria with other Nigerians there, they initially refused to airlift him. They said he had no evidence to show that he was sick to justify being evacuated to Nigeria with others.

“I prayed about the situation and learnt later that they called the hospital which treated him to know the nature of his sickness. He was later airlifted with others. He called me the day he arrived in the country and I reached out to some persons including my sister to help me meet him when he arrived in Nigeria.

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“She told me that she had arranged for him to be treated upon arrival in Nigeria. My sister called him and he said they were all driven away in a bus to an isolation centre. She was unable to reach to him after then. We tried his mobile and it rang out many times without being answered. The day he picked it, I asked him if he had eaten around 11am and he said he hadn’t.

“I was surprised because he was sick and ought to have eaten at that time. I called my sister in Lagos to tell her what he told me. She tried reaching him but the phone rang out without a response. It was the same situation for days as the mobile was no longer available. The next thing we heard was that he was dead. He was supposed to be taken to a hospital for treatment as there was a medical report he presented upon arrival to the authorities.  He promised to take care of us, his wife and four kids; two boys and two girls. But death has denied him of doing that.’’

The grieving woman, who said things had been tough for the family, added that her late son’s wife had used all the goods in her provision store to take care of their kids.

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Earlier, the Lagos State Health Commissioner, Prof Akin Abayomi, on May 12 said a Dubai-returnee died of coronavirus complications in a seeming reference to Tunde.

The commissioner, two days after, however, stated via Twitter that the COVID-19 result carried out on the 32-year-old male returned negative.

He apologised for what he described as “a presumed COVID19-related death” of the Dubai-returnee.

The commissioner said, “The death of a recent Dubai returnee previously announced on my social media handles earlier was a presumed #COVID19 related death. I hereby inform the general public that the Nigerian who recently returned from Dubai as part of a group of returnees who were placed in a COVID-19 isolation program me in Lekki, developed complications and was transferred to one of our facilities where he died.

“Because of the sudden nature of his demise and without any prior knowledge of his multiple preexisting conditions, it was presumed to be a COVID-19 related death pending confirmation by COVID-19 Gold standard test.

“This presumptive attribution is a precaution to ensure the safe clinical management of the patient and subsequent handling of the corpse.

“The definitive COVID-19 gold standard test has turned out to be negative for the COVID-19 infection and his death is no longer considered to have been attributable to COVID-19.”

The woman said Tunde’s corpse had been released to the family for burial.  She stated, “His corpse was brought to us in Akure through my sister and another relative. He was buried on Friday.’’

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Also speaking with our correspondent, the deceased’s widow, Joy said she had accepted her fate, adding that their kids were aged between 10 and two years.

She said, “It’s the eldest of the children aged 10 that normally asks after their father. My last conversation with my husband was when he returned to Nigeria on Wednesday (May 6). I asked about his health and he said he was okay. I told him not to stress himself. I also asked if he had eaten and he said no. I urged him to meet the management of where he was camped to tell them he was hungry.

“He said he didn’t see anybody but would try. I ended the call and called him again after 30 minutes but his voice had changed. I told him I would call his mother’s sister to prepare food and take it to where he was. But by the time they tried his phone to know where he was camped, it rang out. It was the same situation when I tried to reach him throughout that day.

“For a week, the phone was switched off. It was with shock that we learnt that he had died. The death certificate showed that he died on May 9. I don’t know where to start from. I was saddened by the news of his death. He was away for two years. I don’t know how to raise the school fees of the children and money to feed them.’’

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