(Warning: Graphic images)
Bunmi Oyesanya had never had a sick day in her life and had never been to hospital as an adult except to deliver her children.
The first time this reporter spoke to Bunmi was on May 18, 2015, and she had been on a bed at the National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos for three and half months. Her two sons were living with a relative because her husband had to dash between work and the hospital.
She had had two surgeries, one to have her shattered heel bone taken out and another to remove dead tissue from around the same area to prevent healthy flesh from getting infected. Skin from her thigh had been removed to graft over the flesh of her ankles. She had also been transfused twenty pints of blood. For a woman as active as she used to be, the thought of never walking unaided had become a possibility. She had also been told that she might never wear shoes again, never dance, never skip down the road in joy and all because a LAGBUS vehicle ran over her.
The accident happened on the 3rd of February, 2015 while Bunmi was on her way home from work. An artist, with a degree in Painting and Drawing from Auchi Polytechnic, she needed to supplement her income and so accepted a job as head teacher in a primary school.
She was walking by the side of the road when it happened. “I had just gotten to Benson bus stop, near Ikorodu garage, when I heard someone shout ‘BRT!’ So I turned immediately and to my surprise what I saw was a speeding bus. Next thing, I found myself on the culvert behind me where traders normally sell. How I managed to fall, I don’t know. Everything happened in a flash. I tried to quickly remove my leg but the guy was speeding and my leg was trapped. The back tyres climbed over my leg then the driver turned into the road and sped off.”
LAGBUS is a transport service established by the Lagos State Government in 2007 to alleviate the transportation issues in Lagos state. It is a franchise operation co-managed by a number of companies. LAGBUS shares a segregated lane with Lagos BRT (bus rapid transport) which is a state-managed service under LAMATA (Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority).
LAGBUS, however, plies some routes which do not have the segregated lane and as such have to share the same lanes with other vehicles.
There have been a number of media reports over the years of people being run over by LAGBUS buses and this is mostly because despite the numerous pedestrian bridges in Lagos, some Lagosians insist on crossing the express road, very often running into the BRT lane to avoid other cars and so get knocked down. There are also cases, as with Bunmi’s, where a careless driver ploughs into bystanders well away from his path.
“I tried to stand up but I could not stand up. That was when I saw what happened. I started crying for help, nobody was willing to assist. They were busy snapping pictures, holding their heads and screaming Hah! Ewo o! You know, different kinds of drama.”
Bunmi lay there crying for help for close to twenty minutes in real danger of bleeding to death. So, she started her own drama. “I have children at home o! Please help me o!” she shouted over and over again.
Her cries finally moved some of the women selling at the side of the road to get help. They took her to a hospital which was three buildings away from the scene. At the hospital she contacted her husband who came down as fast as he could. There, they were told her case was beyond their capacity so she was taken to another Hospital in Ikorodu, near LASPOTEC.
The news at this second hospital wasn’t any better. “We got there; they said they can’t handle it, that it’s amputation. But there was no place to go then because it was very late. So I was given some injections and First Aid.” This was close to three hours after the accident.
Bunmi spent the night there and very early the following day she was taken to the orthopedic hospital where she was admitted and thus began a long, painful and financially tasking journey for her.
A stranger had joined their party when Bunmi was taken to the first hospital. He didn’t introduce himself at the time but it later came out that he was Mr. Adegbola, a manager with LAGBUS.
The driver had sped off after the accident, apparently to report himself and his boss responded immediately by coming to the scene.
For the first month, according to Bunmi, Mr. Adegbola came to visit and took care of some of the medical bills. He was often accompanied by another man, a Mr. Alamu, of the LAGBUS Accident and Emergency Team.
According to Bunmi, after that first month, the visits stopped and the bills began to pile up. She wasn’t working so her salary had stopped. She couldn’t get her art work to galleries that made requests and because her husband was running himself ragged taking care of her and the children it took a toll on his business as well. Frustration began to set in.
“I will call them, insist they should come, or my brother will call them because my husband and my brother were the ones stationed here. I’d beg the nurses to allow them come in even when they’re not supposed to come, just for them to see the injury. Even though I heard different stories, I didn’t want to doubt because of the way they took up my case at first. I was thinking, okay, they’re nice people, they know the right thing to do.”
Bunmi’s worries were legion. That she had kept her legs was a miracle. Though optimistic, the doctors didn’t consider her completely out of danger. The road to recovery was paved with more surgery, intense physiotherapy and home care. It would take months to get back even a semblance of the life she lived before the accident. Not to mention the financial implications.
By the time Bunmi had her second surgery, her hospital bills were chasing a million naira, and more was piling up: there were drugs to be bought, admission fees to be paid, physiotherapy to be paid for. It was clear that the family would be accumulating a debt before long if nothing was done.
Sabinews contacted Mr Adegbola on May 21, 2015 and he refused to comment on the case although a few days later he got in touch with Bunmi, after almost two months of silence.
In August, Bunmi was back home, temporarily discharged so she could recuperate from a third surgery. The procedure was to rearrange the bones in her feet so she could at least stand and put some weight on it.
“I am using a walker now,” she said when she spoke to Sabinews, over the phone. “I can move around and do some things. I’ve been to the hospital twice for check up and I’ll be going back there next week. The doctors are closely monitoring my case. I still can’t do any art work or go back to my job for now. My husband still does most of the running around.”
A nurse from a nearby hospital was contracted to change her dressing at home because “Igbobi is too far away to go there that regularly,” Bunmi said as she poured encomiums on her doctors, nurses and staff at the orthopedic hospital.
Her children were back at home with her, but it didn’t take much of an imagination to figure out that it was not easy for her to get back on her feet, literally and figuratively. “The LAGBUS people said they will come to a decision about my hospital fees soon,” she told us with a sigh.
Sabinews tried without success to get in touch with either Mr Adegbola or Mr Alamu for a comment at that time.
By December, the management of LAGBUS finally made a decision concerning Bunmi’s case: she was asked to bring a detailed list of what it would take to see her to full recovery, including the financial implication; a list that her doctors were wary of giving because according to them, her recovery was a process and they couldn’t tell what would be needed exactly.
“I have explained to them but they keep insisting. Now they’re saying whatever they give me is what I’ll have to take if I don’t bring the list.” Bunmi told this reporter over the phone.
“All this time, I have been spending money. There are things I do that I don’t have receipt for. Small expenses come up and we have to spend money; by the time you add these up it’s running into hundreds of thousands but I can’t claim the money. I’m not even asking for those ones, I just want them to take responsibility and stop making things difficult.
“I’m still not working. I can’t paint because I can’t put my feet on the ground, I have to keep it elevated. By January I will have to go for another surgery. It was supposed to be this December but where will the money come from? I didn’t even want to spend my New Year in the hospital.”
All efforts by Sabinews to reach Mr Alamu, who is now in charge of the case, proved futile as he would not pick his calls nor respond to text messages.