The Tragic ‘Incomplete Dream’ of Sackie Nyanquoi – ‘Man without Face’

Sackie in a chemistry lab at the BSU, USA

Northern Attleboro – Sackie Nyanquoi, the Liberian whose tragic acid attack tale earned him the name ‘Man Without A Face’ is dead. 

According to family sources, Sackie died in the state of Massachusetts on the night of his 27th birthday, October 29, 2018 while playing recreational soccer on his college campus. He is said to have died of natural causes when he collapsed during an intramural soccer game in the gymnasium on his campus. 

A senior student at the Massachusetts-based Bridgewater State University, majoring in Chemistry, with a concentration in Biochemistry, Sackie had hope to become a renowned Liberian surgeon upon completing both his medical treatment and studies.

“The game had just ended and he passed out. He was totally unresponsive”, a local newspaper in Massachusetts, The Enterprise, quotes Police Chief David Tillinghast.

“BSU athletics staff performed CPR and attempted to defibrillate him with an AED. We were called and officers joined in the CPR. The Bridgewater Fire Department ambulance then arrived and continued resuscitation efforts en route to the hospital, ultimately to no avail.”

Police say they believe he died of natural causes: “We do believe he died of natural causes, apparently cardiac-related,” Tillinghast said.

Sackie’s sudden death brings to an unfortunate end not only a remarkable recovery tale, but also his impressive academic journey and a newly found life in the United States, as has been chronicled by FrontPageAfrica over the past nine years.

Sackie a year after the acid attack in Liberia, 2009

Then only 17, armed robbers on April 17, 2008 attacked Sackie’s parents’ home on Perry Street, Monrovia, , leaving him severally wounded and burned after they poured raw acid liquid on him and his father. The attack caused severe disfigurement on Sackie’s body and his face. 

He and his father were admitted at the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia. The father quickly recovered few weeks later, but it was the teenager who lied in anguish on the hospital bed for over a year due to the severity of the burns he suffered. He was left completely disfigured beyond recognition.

By mid-2009, FrontPageAfrica visited him at the hospital, subsequently running series of articles on his plight that eventually yielded humanitarian results. Dr. Bartum Kulah, a Liberian US-based doctor had brought Sackie’s plight to the paper’s attention. 

By 2010, Sackie and his mother travelled to the United States where he began receiving pro-bono reconstructive surgeries at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston.

While receiving treatment including multiple surgeries, Sackie also continued his secondary education which had been interrupted back home in Liberia due to the acid attack on him. After his high school graduation from the North Attleboro High School in 2012, he enrolled at the Bristol Community College. In 2016, he transferred to the Bridgewater State University, the largest college in the Massachusetts State University System outside the University of Massachusetts System.

Tributes Trail Sackie’s Demise

Following his untimely death, several tributes have been pouring in.

For Canmue Smith, the Liberian who offered his home to the late Sackie since he travelled to the US, late Sackie was already a part of him: “I’m out of words, the manner in which Sackie left us. Imagine someone who lived with you for all these years.” 

Dr. Bartum Kulah, FrontPageAfrica’s first point of contact before taking up the initiatives of publishing Sackie’s story, said, “It’s a sad end to what would have been a beautiful story. He never allowed his misfortune to define him or to limit him. Sackie was always happy and made friends. He was a dreamer and a doer. May his soul rest in peace.”

Nat Bayjay, then reporter of FrontPageAfrica who chronicled Sackie’s story throughout, wrote on his Facebook wall: “Born October 29 and dying October 29 signals your greatness. You fought a great battle of recovery. You had promised me that you would become Liberia’s first plastic surgeon, something you were en route to achieving. Above all, that battle helped to shape my style of journalism. I followed up on your story from the JFK Hospital in Liberia, to the Shriners Hospital in Boston, and up to your graduation from high school. And, I have been reserving as a very special headline, ‘Man With A Face’. This was to undo my maiden series of ‘Man Without A Face’.  But now, how do I just update this one? Rest on, my junior brother.”

Former Margibi County Senator, Honorable Clarice Jah, who chaired the Liberian Senate’s Committee on Health at the time of the acid attack and contributed to Sackie’s US travels, simply wrote of sorrow: “I’m so sad about Sackie”.

For the Bridgewater State University, Sackie was a very special student. The BSU took to its Twitter handle, while announcing a memorial service for him on Saturday, November 3, 2018:  “We grieve the loss of Sackie Nyanquoi, but we grieve together. We are honored to host the proud Bear’s memorial service on Sat., Nov. 3, at 10:30 a.m. in Dunn Conf. Suite with a reception immediately after in Crimson Hall. Join us.”

Joseph Oravecz, the Vice President for Student Affairs, wrote in a letter to the campus community: “It is tragic when we lose such a young and cherished member of our campus community. Sackie touched many lives. His passing is being deeply felt by all who were blessed enough to have known him.”

 “He was such a kind person, always went out of his way to talk to others or just say hello,” said Katelyn Scammon, who previously worked with Sackie at the YMCA in North Attleboro. “To overcome everything he did and still have such a positive outlook in life, he was really an inspiration,” Scammon said, adding, “I remember him talking about school and how excited he was to earn his degree”. “I know he would’ve made such a difference in this world – an even bigger difference than he’s already made.”