The shock that greeted news of the sudden death of Zoegar Jaynes remains ever present. It is therefore with great sadness I do this reflection in remembrance of a professional colleague, a former workmate, a church brother, and a family friend – one of my kid’s “god parents,” who is said to have died of diabetes.
I was barely fifteen minutes in bed when my phone rang in the morning hours of November 14, 2014 at about 3:00 AM. It was Baindu Ken a former colleague at Radio Veritas, where we had the privileged of sharing the microphone with Zeogar. Baindu said: “Quaqua, it na happen again ooo.” Then I said, what’s that? She said “Zoegar died; Zoegar is dead ooo,” in a shaky, but subdued tone. Then I said what! She said “yes, but it’s not ebola, he died of sugar.” Sugar!
I was in some sort of seizure momentarily. When we hung up, I dialed Ledgerhood Rennie’s number. He was not immediately available. Then I tried Hassan Kaiwu’s line and he corroborated the death news. Ledge returned my call later and confirmed the news; he had been on the line with his wife in the States about the incident when I called, indicating to me that they had some family connections. From that point on, my phone would ring for the rest of the morning, the first time I received as many calls since I left the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia about a year ago.
My wife and I, together with our kid visited the home of the late Zoegar to sympathize with his widow that evening. The place was so jammed. We did not have the time to talk so it was not possible to get any additional details about the cause of death aside from the general information that was in circulation.
On Saturday morning, the 15th instant of November, I visited one of the Doctors who ran into Zoegar as he was apparently already tussling with death. When I got the doctor’s account of the painful passing of Zoegar then I concluded that Baindu’s assertion was wrong, ‘It was Ebola.’
Oh yes, Zoegar may not have literally died of the ebola virus, but come with me. Zoegar’s condition became serious on Thursday, 13 November. At about 11:00 am, he was taken to the Hope for Women International Clinic on the AB Tolbert Road in Paynesville [not far from where he lived] but refused, or should I say rejected? He was then driven to the SOS Clinic on the Tubman Boulevard opposite what used to be the Sophie Ice Crime Shop. He was rejected. He was moved to the SDA Cooper Hospital on 12th Street. At the SDA, he was let to feel the anguish of death. The suffering man spent nearly an hour waiting at the hates of the hospital while doctors were holding discussions and investigating his history to determine whether or not to admit him. When the Hospital finally decided they would receive him just for a “short stay” after the long wait, the lab did not have the equipment to run a test. So I am told the doctor on call administered what was said to be “clear drip” hopefully to get him stabilized somehow as he was visibly dehydrated. But the attention he received at the SDA was only made possible after calls were made for intervention by other doctors who would plea with their colleagues to please see Zoegar. What a hopeless situation!
Meanwhile, Zoegar’s journey was to end at the place he was first rejected – The Hope for Women International. Yes… he was driven around 6:00 pm back to Paynesville because another doctor who is a church brother/deacon had called Dr. Jallah, owner of the Hope for Women Clinic. It was at this point that the respected doctor made the u-turned to allow Zoegar in her walls. Zoegar was tested. And the report suggests that his sugar had rocketed to as high as over 600 more than 500%. Needless to tell you that it was too late to revive Zoegar; he passed off not too long afterwards. It was few minutes after mid night when news of his death started spreading like bush fire.
In a nutshell, this is the narrative surrounding the death of our friend, who could have been alive today maybe, but for ebola. Nine months after the outbreak of the virus, the fear of ebola continues to have a toll on our people. Our health practitioners, like the political leaders, are still panicking over decisions to deal with ebola and the attending effects. How many more of our loved ones will expire before we muster the courage to stand up to this disease, howbeit in its diminishing state?
Am I talking to someone here? No! I am actually talking about our health care delivery system that should respond to our medical needs. Nine months into the ebola fight, our hospitals are still lacking in confidence about seeing sick people. Maybe we all [who feel sick] should first run to the ebola treatment centers to get tested before proceeding to a regular health facility. No disrespect for our health authorities, but I think we need to fight this ebola disease SMART.
I don’t stay understand why we continue to build treatment centers outside medical facilities when they will not be there in the long term. And these constructions are taking place at a time our government and partners are reporting a ‘significant decline’ in cases across the country. Paynesville alone has three ETUs now.
Our government has since conceded the poor state of the country’s health system. I thought it would make good sense then, to begin the rebuilding process by setting up ebola and infectious disease control and treatment units in our hospitals – JFK, Redemption, Catholic, Jackson Doe, Phebe, etc. We might end up wasting resources on these ETUs, and more importantly, more human resources if we do not fight SMART. See how we lost Zoegar and the very many who died indirectly of ebola that we are not aware of. So painful!
The adage “the good die young’ is made true in the loss of my dear friend and colleague Zoegar Jaynes. I met Zoegar at the Liberia Broadcasting System in 1996, where I did my second internship, having served briefly with the Democrat Newspaper. I am not sure when he arrived, but we were both among a few new comers who were considered trainees. He was nonetheless my senior by the perking order. By then Rufina Darpoh was News Director while Chesty Gbongon was Editor-In-Chief.
The April 6, 1996 Street war in Monrovia disrupted the growth of some of the new folks, but it was to be my blessing in disguise. Due to severity of the crisis and the risk it posed to reporters reporting to work from across the city, the Management of LBS chose a skeleton staff. Zoegar happened to have been on the team. As an intern, I was not officially chosen, but my proximity to the station [in the Ducor at the time] forced me on the team. It was a great opportunity for me to showcase. Going forward, we spent six years at LBS doing stuff together in the newsroom and on the commentary team before I resigned. I joined the Radio Varitas family where he later followed. I joined him on the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia. While he was entering his second term as Financial Secretary, I was being voted as the Assistant Secretary-General. Important still, he remained a loyal member of the Union until his passing – whether he was playing on the PUL football team or organizing events. A willing comrade indee!
He was dutiful and straight forward. He could use the volume of this voice to hammer his points. If you were meeting him for the first time you would easily get intimidated.
Of course this tribute will be incomplete if I do not say a word about Zoegar, the servant of God. I have reference to our fellowship with the Providence Baptist Church. I joined the Church in the early 90s upon my return from refugee live in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He was already an active member when I arrived. I do not know much about his early days, but he sang in the choir and grew in the Royal Ambassador program [an all boy teaching fellowship]. I joined the evangelism team, taught in Sunday school, became Youth President and Communications Director. I had the honor to have Zoegar work with me on the Church publication and radio ministry. By this time Zoegar was in the Men’s Department [now Men’s Ministry] where he later became President/Director until his death. He did not only lead the Men’s Ministry, he revived and rebranded it. Perhaps his highest religious service saw him become a Deacon. I can safely say he was an accomplished servant par excellence in his life time.
My profound condolences to Tina, his widow, and his three children; may the Lord order your steps. May the Lord restore your joy. Yes, Zoegar is truly dead and we cannot fly in the face that reality. Whether he died of the ebola virus or the ‘exponential’ effects of ebola, we are now missing Zoegar and will forever. May his death reinforce our collective will in ending ebola in our country and sub-region; may God trouble our governments to begin investing in restoring our health system even while we fight ebola.
And now therefore may the Good Lord receive your soul and all the other fellows and comrades who predeceased you, including our compatriots who are without graves, our health workers who passed fighting ebola and those who died of curable diseases because of the fear of ebola.