Dr Alfa Sa'adu: The Nigerian 'legend' who died of COVID-19 while saving others in UK

Dr Alfa Sa'adu is a Nigerian medical practitioner who got his feet wet and couldn't escape while saving others from drowning in the pond of COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom where more than 93,000 people have been infected with the virus and over 12,000 have died.

Dr Sa'adu, who retired in 2016 after a 40-year medical career in the UK, was volunteering at the Queen's Victoria memorial hospital, in Welwyn, Hertfordshire – one of the counties worst hit by the virus in UK – when he became ill and eventually died this month after battling COVID-19 for two weeks.

He was 68 and knew the risk involved in being at the front line of the fight against COVID-19 when he answered the call by the UK government for retired doctors to return to the front line to tackle the pandemic.

Data from China, where the outbreak began in Wuhan in December 2019, revealed that older and elderly people (aged 60 plus) are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. According to the World Economic Forum, the mortality rate for people from 60 to 69 is at 3.6%. At 70 to 79, it's 8%. And those who are 80 or above, it's 15%.

Dr Sa'adu's altruistic nature was at the fore and he was more concerned about saving those drowning. His son Dani describes him as "a very passionate man, who cared about saving people. As soon as you spoke to him about medicine his face would light up."

He hailed from Patigi in Patigi Local Government Area of Kwara State. He moved to London very early in his life and attended Adams Grammar School, Wales in 1963. He bagged a degree in medicine from the University College Hospital Medical School, London in 1976.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he became a Consultant Physician in Geriatric Medicine in 1994 and rose to become the Medical Director of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, England before retiring in 2016. He left two sons and a wife, who is also a retired doctor in occupational health.

His altruistic nature must have added to what qualified him to be conferred with a chieftaincy title as the Galadima of Patigi. Despite spending most of his life in London, Dr Sa'adu didn't neglect his root, he was constantly in touch, a former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki confirmed this in a tweet where he paid tributes to the selfless medic.

Saraki tweeted: "Late Dr. Sa'adu provided leadership for our people in the diaspora as he served for many years as Chairman, Kwara State Association of Nigeria (Kwasang UK). Back at home, he was a community leader and traditional office holder as Galadima of Pategi. He will be sorely missed."

In a social media post, his son Dani describes him as "a living legend" who "worked for the NHS for nearly 40 years saving people's lives here and in Africa. Up until he got sick, he was still working part-time saving people."

Two words aptly describe the life of Dr Alfa Sa'adu – he was passionate and altruistic.

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