The above is the title of my show on social media two days ago. I am just repeating it here as a guide to what has evolved since then. The article attracted worldwide interest except for the sports community in Nigeria, which does not seem to appreciate the enormity of the matter or the global citizens involved.
Even athletes he groomed or led to achieve their success in international sport discussed other pedestrian issues instead of expressing concern, or even escalated the health problem of a co-Olympian whose technical contributions were being made to sport and sport The lives of many of Nigeria’s most successful athletes are almost unprecedented in the history of the country.
We can forgive the younger generation of athletes for not knowing the personality around them in Lee Evans, but certainly not the older generation who have benefited from his work and time in Nigerian athletics.
There have been new and exonerating developments in the past 24 hours, but you have to read yesterday’s article to appreciate them in context.
Mr. Lee Edward Evans dies. However, he must not die without having any chance of living. Mostly because he’s American, the greatest country in the world, a world-renowned former athlete and coach, an American sports hero, and a member of the USA Athletics Hall of Fame.
During his years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was a “god” loved and celebrated all over the world. Lee was what Usain Bolt became his favorite, but lacked extravagance, publicity, and the fate of the present.
Lee Edward Evans was the first person to break the 44-second mark for the 400-meter race at the age of 21. He then broke 11 world records over various distances during his career as a sprint athlete. The last time he broke the world record in 400 meters, he won two solid gold medals at the 1968 Olympics. That record stood for 20 years and was only broken by Michael Johnson, who had to cover the distance at an almost, humanly impossible pace that has not been seen before or since in athletics.
Lee’s second Olympic gold medal was in the 4 × 400 m relay race.
After his career as an athlete, Lee became one of the greatest sprint coaches in the world, following the submission of his trainer and mentor, another Hall of Famer, Lloyd Bud Winters. Lee has traveled the world and worked in various countries including Nigeria where he has worked longest and has coached a legion of some of Nigeria’s greatest athletes in history. He is a pioneer of the Olympic human rights project.
In short, Lee Edward Evans is a true American legendary sports hero. He has been supporting me for two years as a volunteer trainer for boys and girls at Segun Odegbami International College and the Sports Academy SOCA in Wasimi Orile, Ogun State, and is changing young life in a positive way.
I am writing this in Abeokuta on Wednesday evening. I have just returned from what is probably the best hospital in the Nigerian state of Ogun right now – the Babcock University teaching hospital in Ilishan.
Lee Evans lies in the hospital emergency room with multiple tubes and devices attached to him who were passed out in the past three days.
Three days ago we were having dinner with a couple of friends in Abeokuta when he suddenly passed out in his seat at the table. It has since become a nightmarish experience. No need to go into the details.
The results of numerous tests carried out by the hospital today showed that he had an unusual stroke, in which blood clots are in a blood vessel in his brain. He has not regained consciousness since then.
I was told that, apart from one miracle, there was little more that the hospital could do for him based on the prognosis. At best, it will manage him and deliver him palliatively.
For two days without access to the contacts on his phone, I was lost and unable to contact his family abroad. In the past few hours, with the help of some of his American friends and some former Nigerian athletes, I’ve made contact with his children in the United States.
Yet I’m still alone here, trying to manage the critical health of one of the greatest athletes not only in American history, but around the world within the extremely limited Nigerian health system.
The last 24 hours have been traumatic. I finally managed to reach a duty officer at the American Embassy in Lagos and report on Lee’s condition. Unfortunately, due to the two-day Ramadan holiday, the embassy is not in regular service, so I wasn’t able to achieve much. I have an obligation to keep the Embassy informed of his condition.
However, as I write this, I am at the end of my mind. I left the man unconscious on a bed in Ilishan, on life sustaining medical tubes all over his body, an oxygen tank next to his bed, a breathing apparatus covering his face indicating that he is now life sustaining, and the resignation in the faces of the hardworking medical teams at Babcock University’s teaching hospital, who work hard to make it as comfortable as possible and to tell their own story.
The man mustn’t die so cheaply. In America nobody dies like a chicken anymore. This should not happen to any citizen of the world’s most progressive country, least of all to his own citizen, a hero and celebrated global sports ambassador. America owes a responsibility to getting Lee Evans to the best medical facility in the world immediately.
About 15 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, was sent home with me and had a maximum of six months to live. She was in her 80s.
Wole and Toyin, my younger siblings, insisted we disregard the forecast, give her a second opinion and a better health system, and bring her to the UK. We did that by faith.
It took a few surgeries and treatments, but in the end the miracle with modern medicine and technology, 11 months in and out of the hospital, happened and our mother came back to Nigeria all over again. She lived another 11 years before she finally died.
My mother is the source of my present hope in the medical “miracles”. But every expected miracle must be preceded by a step of faith.
That is what I now humbly ask the American government to intervene immediately and evacuate Lee Evans to the United States and give him the chance to survive his current critical medical situation. Wasting time beyond the immediate won’t be good enough. Leaving him in Nigeria means signing his death warrant.
Lee’s life is important. He can be saved if the United States Government acts TODAY!
It’s been over 24 hours since I wrote the lines about it. During this time, things have taken a dramatic and incredible turn. If I have any doubt that America is the largest country in the world, the last ounce has gone by with developments on the Lee Evans affair in the past 24 hours.
With the help of several former Nigerian athletes living in the United States, all of whose lives Lee had influenced, I made contact with two of Lee’s children. They immediately took action.
I also reached out to the American Embassy in Lagos (and they have also contacted me since then) and had an in-depth conversation with the officials who made an indelible mark on me.
Instead of the snotty and abusive demeanor that many people usually attribute to embassy officials during visa interviews, the officers I spoke to, Brian and Maureen, were extremely warm, concerned, patient, and personable when I relayed Lee’s situation. They asked several questions, asked for information, and left me confident that when things got back to work on Friday, things would start flying. I didn’t have to wait that long to get there. I can testify that I didn’t have to wait that long for something to happen around me. America is great o !!
I gave the account of my interaction with the embassy and the steps they had to take to move urgent action forward to two of his adult children. They have brought other Lee siblings with them, too, and the operation is ongoing.
Lee Evans is a respected Olympian. He belongs to several elite athlete groups. His closest friends among former athletes pull out all the stops to access packages for retired athletes in difficult conditions. A model from which Nigeria must learn lessons in order to design its own structures.
The common thread in all the measures taken is the unique consideration that Lee Evans must not die unless all opportunities to bring him to life have been exhausted.
I spent most of Thursday night until dawn speaking to various affected Americans, answering questions, and getting advice on what to do.
The big question now is: in his current condition, is it safe to fly him out of the country even if he’s in an ambulance? If not, what would be the next best option?
As I write this, I am on my way to Ilishan to ask the questions and seek opinions from the medical advisors at Babcock University Teaching Hospital.
A whole army of Lee’s friends, former athletes, and colleagues in various countries around the world has risen and is in line with the plans of the family, his siblings in America, and the American embassy in Nigeria.
There is nothing short of anything to take care of Lee’s present and future condition. All of these developments are comforting and the public should ignore any public appeals from anyone for funds for Lee’s welfare.
As for Lee’s current status, let me assure him that he is stable and not in any apparent distress. He is like in a very deep sleep in the intensive care unit of the teaching hospital of Babcock University in Ilishan and receives the best possible care in the environment. He has the full weight of his family, friends, the American government and his adopted country of Nigeria behind him.