A tribute to Dr. Victor Robertson Willoughby
MD,OR,MBRS,MRCP,(UK),FWACP(Follow of the West Africa college of Physicians)
Consultant physician specialist;A distinguished son of the soil, An icon, rare jewel, our star of Sierra Leone;A man of sterling character and indeed worthy of emulation
BY ALICE MALAMAH- THOMAS, FREETOWN-SIERRA LEONE
I first come to know Dr.Willoughby some thirty-six(36) years ago, on his return home to Sierra Leone from abroad. I actually met him personally, when I had cause to call upon him in sheer desperation to come to our home and to render his medical services to our mother, who had been ill for some time and was bedridden and could not walk.
He agreed to come and consequently visited her without much ado and continued to administer to her on several occasions, until my mother got better and could once more walk again.
During this period, he demonstrated his medical skills with such expertise, and untold patience, and such as I had never seen before. As I said, he finally succeeded in getting our mother to walk again and how proud he was of this great achievement. For me, this was undoubtedly a great medical breakthrough, for him, especially as he had only just returned home to Sierra Leone from abroad. He had started to make an impact in the Sierra Leone Society.
He proudly told and retold this success story his numerous patients and to others, and even quiet recently in my presence, to some young medical internees undergoing practical training under his supervision. He was so proud of this medical achievement, more so especially as one of his male patients said to him (as he himself told me) “Dr. Willoughby, ar wan mek you men me lek how you men Mama Wilson – Mama Wilsons don Waka”
How he loved to tell this story, throughout all this years, and even up to the time of his demise. Sadly for me , the second time he was with my mother to administer to her, was when I had called upon him again, and he had to travel several Kilometers away from the Capital City Freetown, to Gbendembu Village, near Goderich in the now Western Rural Area District of Freetown where my mother was staying. Even though he had driven all the way to the Peninsular in terrible road conditions, he never asked for a dime.
The Peninsular road was then a very dusty and terrible road, in the dry season, and very muddy and murky during the rainy season with several potholes, as big as the bottom of a plastic bucket turned upside down. Once again, he demonstrated his usual medical expertise and knowhow with such care and precision, but sadly this time my mother passed away in hospital. This was in 1980, some thirty-four years ago.
His kindheartedness, goodness, humility, gentlemanliness, and love for his fellow men, had once more surfaced.
He was indeed a source of encouragement and a great pillar of strength and support to us. You cannot imagine how devastated I was when news reached me of his sudden demise. What? You mean Dr. Willoughby has left us so suddenly? His passing away, sent shock waves throughout Sierra Leone and beyond, on that fatal day of Thursday, the 18th of December 2014. Sierra Leone had lost one of her most respected and much loved Doctor. I had only spoken to him quiet recently and a week before he passed away. He told me that on that day, he was not feeling too well and was at home. Little did I know that I was talking to him for the last time.
I noticed from the sound of his voice, that he had flu like symptoms with the usual cough and common cold. This was the very first time that I know of and since I knew him that he was absent from work because of ill health. He was always there for all of us, Sierra Leoneans, who approached him and who needed medical attention.
He loved to chat, but the pressure of work would sometimes not allow him to chat more often than how I suspected he would have loved to.
Where I heard of his passing away, several thoughts started coming to my mind. I remember that once when I was ill, and was to be admitted into hospital, he had written the following instructions to the Nurses unbeknowinglyto me “Please treat with love and affection” This human aspect of his personality was always visible, and coupled with humility, was one of his unique attributes.
This was the Dr. Willoughby I know. His sympathy and loving kindness for humanity, was unprecedented, and vividly reminds me of the likes of one of Sierra Leone’s most famous Doctors of yesteryears in the person of Dr. Radcliffe Jones of Walpole Street and Lightfoot Boston Street Junction, in whose Nursing Home I was born, and whose Bust now stands majestically at Independence Avenue, opposite the great historic Cotton Tree in Freetown. Like Dr. Radcliffe Jones, Dr. Willoughby had so much passion and love for his job, coupled with great sympathy for his patients, both poor and rich alike, and was constantly on the go, never wavering, never resting. In retrospect, many a Sierra Leoneans mother, delivered their babies at Dr. Jones’ nursing home at Walpole Street, under the care of one of the most able and reliable nursing, Nurse Curney, also gone to the great beyond. Dr. Willoughby, our man of the times, our man of the 21st Century was always so sympathetic, that money was no criteria for his medical services rendered. I also remember vividly, once when some of his patients were grumbling outside, in his waiting room, that they had waited for a very long time to see him. He said to me “nor men dem yah, half of demnor de pay”! I thought how kind of him, knowing the level of poverty in this rich country, where poor people cannot afford to pay for their medical services. How many Doctors will offer their services free of charge to Sierra Leoneans who needed medical attention and treatments especially, as Sierra Leone has no free National Health System except free medical services for Under Fives.
Little wonder then that Dr. Willoughby won the rare, coveted, prestigious, and well deserved award of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone for his honesty, integrity and forthrightness amongst all the many other attributes he possessed.
As he loved humanity, so also did humanity love him- AND TO THE BONES. In addition, he was also a very recipient of the United Nations award for his humanitarian services, under very hazardous conditions. When I heard the citation on radio from no less a person than the Present UN Secretary-General himself, Ban Ki-Moon on his recent visit to Sierra Leone. I thought this glorious tribute was most befitting to a man like Dr. Willoughby, an illustrious son of the soil, whose dedication and commitment to duty and service to his fellow Sierra Leoneans was matchless, and second to none.
In addition, Dr. Willoughby was also dedicated to serving his Lord and Maker. He was ordained a lay cannon at the Cathedral of St. Georges, where he faithfully served his God until his death. He was also a founding member of the Diapason Committee of that Church.
Dr. Willoughby always stood firm in his beliefs, and principles and did not easily compromise. He was a well-disciplined man, with an impeccable character, a strong sense of commitment and dedication to duty.
Indeed a man of great stature, our star of Sierra Leone, our most Precious Gem, yes the indefatigable, indominatable, and much loved Dr. Willoughby, Sierra Leone’s very own.
He has certainly left his footprints in the sands of time, even as we continue to remember him.
Immortalized, he has left an indelible mark on the minds of many Sierra Leoneans, but we must not mourn as one without hope but must believe and trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Dr. Willoughby is now saying to us “Weep not for me,” I am now with my Maker and I am at rest. I am at peace, perfect peace with Him” and in the words of the great Jim Reeves he is saying:
“Take MY Hand, Precious Lord”
When my work is all done
And my race here is run
Let me see by the light
Thou hast shown
That fair city so bright
Where the lantern is the light
Take my hand, precious Lord
Lead me on.
Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I’m weak, I’m worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand, precious Lord
Lead me home.
Rest In Peace – our very own Dr. Willoughby Adieu, goodbye. Sierra Leoneans love you so much and will continue to love you, just as you were, even as we continue to mourn yours loss. We will never see you again, but we shall never forget you. May your gentle Soul and the Souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God (during Sierra Leone’s trying times of pestilence and plague) rest in Perfect Peace.
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© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.