TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

How misdiagnosis led to Dora's death

Source: pointblanknews.com
Listen to article

When Mrs Dora Nkem Akunyili was the Zonal Secretary (South-east) of the

Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund in 1998, Nigerian doctors gave her what

many of her family members considered to be a health scare. They said she

had a growth and needed surgery.
Akunyili, then 44, decided to travel to the United States, first to get a

second opinion and then undergo the prescribed surgery. The bill for the

medical trip was $17,000, including $12,000 for the surgery.

During pre-surgery check-up in the US, the doctors told her the Nigerian

doctors had made a wrong diagnosis and that she did not need any surgery.

It was said to be a minor issue that medication would solve.

She thanked the doctors and, to their surprise, said she was going to

return the money meant for the surgery to PTF. That was strange. Nigerian

government officials had devised a way of making sure such monies were not

returned to the treasury.
The hospital informed the PTF, under the leadership of Major Gen.

Muhammadu Buhari, about one honest Nigerian they had found. Buhari,

himself a straightforward person, was very impressed. He wrote a letter to

Akunyili commending her honesty.
NAFDAC:
Then came 2001. President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to appoint a

director-general for the National Agency for Drug and Food Administration

and Control (NAFDAC) and asked for the recommendation of an honest

Nigerian pharmacist. Akunyili's name promptly came up. Someone who had

heard about her PTF record recommended her. There was a little problem, a

Nigerian problem. Objections were raised that the minister of health,

Prof. ABC Nwosu, was an Igbo from Anambra State and NAFDAC, being a

powerful agency under the ministry, should not be headed by another Igbo

from Anambra. It was also argued that the market for fake and substandard

products were controlled by the Igbo, with Onitsha - also in Anambra State

- a major centre for the illicit business. She was going to protect 'her

people', the antagonists said. Obasanjo, stubborn to the cause,  ignored

the observations and appointed her. She went on to do a credible job and

ended up as one of the most outstanding public officers in Nigeria's

history, celebrated locally and globally. She had lost a sister to fake

drugs, and that was perhaps the impetus she needed to go on the offensive.

Misdiagnosis:
Meanwhile, Akunyili always went abroad for check-ups and she was always

given an all-clear. She continued to look robust and energetic, and took

up another government job as minister of information and communications.

But on July 13, 2013, something strange happened to her. She was preparing

to travel to the United States to receive an award. The following day was

her birthday. Her 59th, precisely. Then she fell ill. She was physically

weak and having pains. She decided to go ahead with her trip and attend to

her health in the United States.
It was while she was there that new checks were carried out. Alas, she had

cancer. The original diagnosis in 1998 was right. But the diagnosis at the

point of surgery was wrong.
She became seriously ill and there were fears she could lose her life. She

was in the hospital for months and only returned to Nigeria this year when

the doctors said she was improving.
Her last public appearance was at the National Conference in Abuja, where

she was a delegate. Pictures of a frail-looking Akumyili soon went viral

on the internet.
TheCable could not ascertain the type of cancer, but there are several

reports pinpointing cervical - and some claim it was ovarian. Globally,

cervical cancer is the second most common and the fifth deadliest cancer

in women, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Akunyili died

on June 7, 2014 in India after surviving many death rumours.

TheCable