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My sister died from infection contracted during Dr Anu’s surgery – Relative

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Vivian Onwuzuligbo is the eldest sister of the late Nneka who allegedly died from a botched cosmetic surgery at a medical facility operated by a surgeon, Dr Anuoluwapo Adepoju, in Lagos. She tells ALEXANDER OKERE how her sister died and how the bereaved family is coping with her loss.


What is your relationship with the late Nneka Onwuzuligbo?

My name is Vivian Onwuzuligbo. I am the older sister of the late Nneka Miriam Barbra Onwuzuligbo. I am based in the United States of America.

How did you know Dr Anuoluwapo Adepoju?

I first learned about Dr Anuoluwapo Adepoju when Nneka was in the Intensive Care Unit at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, where she was taken to after complications from the surgery performed on her by Dr Anuoluwapo at her facility, Med Contour. This surgery was performed on Nneka on December 31, 2018, when Dr Anuoluwapo was still a house officer with the General Hospital, Odan, Lagos. Dr Anuoluwapo became fully registered as a medical practitioner on April 4, 2019, two months after my sister died. And this is all documented in a letter by the Lagos State Government Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Board, dated 18 May, 2020. The letter showed that she applied with a senior doctor as the operating officer while she would be the proprietor. The letter also stated that when Dr Anuoluwapo applied to register Med-Contour Medical and Laser Hospital in 2018, she did not have the requisite five years experience.

Did your late sister tell you how she got to know her?

I learned from a family member that the late Nneka met Dr Anuoluwapo through Instagram, where she (Anuoluwapo) had in early 2019 presented herself as a cosmetic and plastic surgeon. She is now presenting herself as just a cosmetic surgeon. What necessitated the change in the description? My late sister underwent the surgery on December 31, 2018, at Med Contour, Lekki, Lagos.

There has been a controversy surrounding the death of your sister. What can you say about the circumstance that led to her death?

My late sister developed difficulty in breathing within 24 hours after the surgery performed on her by Dr Anuoluwapo of Med Contour. She was put on oxygen by the nurses at Med Contour. On the third day, January 3, 2019, Nneka was still not getting better and a family member who was with her insisted that they do something to help Nneka. Dr Anuoluwapo eventually came that day and Nneka was taken to LUTH in an ambulance, with my sister driving behind them. I am still in shock that a referral letter from the General Hospital, Odan, was presented to LUTH by Dr Anuoluwapo on arrival at LUTH’s emergency unit. To clarify, Nneka was never taken to the General Hospital, Odan. She was taken in an ambulance directly from Med Contour, Lekki, to LUTH. My question to the public is: can a hospital refer a patient they never saw? How did Dr Anuoluwapo get hold of the letterheaded paper of the General Hospital, Odan? I have since learned that she was doing her house job in that same hospital at the same period she performed the surgery on the late Nneka at her facility, Med Contour. This supposed referral letter was presented on January 3, 2019, the same date that my late sister was admitted at LUTH from Med Contour.

Did you lodge a complaint with the police?

We lodged a complaint with the police, and on July 5, 2019, Dr Anuoluwapo was arrested and taken to State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti. She had continued her operations even after her facility was sealed by the Lagos State Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency and was arrested at Amethyst Hospital, Lekki, on July 5, 2019, where she was doing consultations and performing surgeries. Anu was taken to Panti after her arrest. She was bailed that same day by her mother whom we later learned is an Assistant Superintendent of Police. The news (of Nneka’s death) first went viral in February, 2019, immediately after Nneka died. It was all over the social media. It was even said then that Dr Anuoluwapo disappeared after Nneka died. Nneka never made it home after the surgery at Med Contour.

The doctor claimed your family was made to believe your sister died from the cosmetic surgery. What were the things your family noticed about the surgery that convinced you it was botched?

My sister died as a result of the cosmetic surgery. We watched a horrifying video of Dr Anuoluwapo performing the surgery on the late Nneka. Dr Anuoluwapo repeatedly placed and retrieved surgical equipment from soiled body drape placed over the lower part of Nneka’s body which she then inserted into Nneka. None of the personnel engaged in carrying out the process wore standard sterilised gowns or standard coverings for their hair. In particular, Dr Anuoluwapo, who handled the procedure herself, did not wear standard sterile scrubs, hair covering or surgical masks. The late Nneka was not properly covered with sterile drapes with appropriate openings for the surgical sites. Throughout the procedure, Dr Anuoluwapo played deafening and high tempo music and thereby created an uncomfortable disco environment that interfered with voice communications in the operating room.

But the surgeon claimed the surgery was successful with no infection, adding that your late sister walked into LUTH when she arrived in an ambulance, as against your position that it was a botched surgical procedure…

The doctor is not saying the truth. The autopsy result of my late sister showed that Nneka died as a result of infections she got during the surgery. Also, my late sister developed difficulty breathing within 24 hours after surgery, while at Med Contour. She (deceased) never walked to LUTH; she was taken there in an ambulance.

What kind of treatment did she receive at LUTH?

She was intubated and placed on a ventilator. She also had two surgeries at LUTH to evacuate the infected and decaying fat in her. Dr Anuoluwapo had grafted dead, unviable fat into my sister’s body.

Is it true your late sister had an underlying ailment before she went for the cosmetic surgery?

My late sister did not have an underlying ailment before she went in for the surgery. She only had Steven Johnson Syndrome, which makes one react to sulphur in drugs. She told the doctor about this during the consultation period in the presence of a family member and Dr Anuoluwapo said it was okay.

Was the cosmetic surgery done by Dr Anuoluwapo the first procedure your late sister ever had?

She had had a fibroid procedure about two years earlier.

Is it true she discontinued the medication given to her by Dr Anuoluwapo and was made to sit on her buttocks at LUTH, causing her to lose fat?

She was already made to sit on her buttocks at Med Contour, even before she got to LUTH. I have pictures of that. Also, note that my sister was having difficulty in breathing. LUTH had to intubate her and put her on a ventilator. You don’t do that with the patient lying face down. Yes, she had to lie on her buttocks in order to be ventilated. LUTH doctors were trying to save her life, not her buttocks.

How would you describe your late sister, what kind of person was she to you and people around her?

Nneka was a very sweet and wonderful sister, a loving daughter. She was soft-spoken, an encourager, homely and prayerful.

What was your last discussion with her?

We had talked about her plans to come to the US to study for a master’s degree and we had discussed the tests she would have to write to get ready. We had also discussed the books she needed to read to prepare.

How has your family been copying with her loss?

Nneka’s death has really affected our mother. Her health deteriorated after Nneka’s death. It has been especially rough for our mother because they were very close. They share a certain bond: Their birthdays are two days apart – Nneka is July 15 and our mom is July 17th.

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