That we may not forget – Stella Adadevoh and Justina Ejelonu

by Cheta Nwanze

There’s a statue in Yaba, Lagos, of a man, whom many in Nigeria have forgotten. His family never have. And now, we all have a chance to remember him, and in a way, to honour him. He is the man on our one Naira coin.

Herbert Olayinka Samuel Heelas Badmus Macaulay, had a daughter, Sarah Idowu Abigail, who would get married and give birth to a son, Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh. Babatunde would grow up to become a doctor, and have kids of his own. One of these children, Stella Ameyo, became, like her father, a doctor.

She would go on to work at a hospital in Obalende, Lagos, First Consultant Hospital, not very far from where her famous ancestor was once imprisoned by the British. It was to be at that that place of work that Stella Ameyo was to perform an act that would save the lives of possibly hundreds of thousands, and sacrifice her own in return.

Dr. Stella Adadevoh as she would like to be remembered. Photo courtesy of Kwami Adadevoh.
Dr. Stella Adadevoh as she would like to be remembered. Photo courtesy of Kwami Adadevoh.

On July 20, 2014, a patient was wheeled in from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Patrick Sawyer, the patient, had shown signs of high fever during his flight from Monrovia, and was taken straight from the airport to the hospital. By the next day, his condition had deteriorated, and he was immediately placed under observation, while his blood sample was taken, and sent for tests. That same day, Mr. Sawyer insisted, with the help of officials of the Liberian Embassy, on being discharged. Stella Ameyo, as supervising doctor, stood her ground that he should not leave the hospital. It was at that point, while reinserting his needles, that she came in contact with him, and in effect signed her own death warrant. One of her junior colleagues, Justina Obi Ejelonu, who had the day before when Sawyer was brought in, helped in checking him, also assisted in placing him back in care. Like Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, Justina Obi Ejelonu, has passed away.

There is no other word to describe the actions of both women, and indeed their entire facility. In preventing the escape of this patient who had insisted on leaving, in his condition, for Calabar, 750 kilometres away, both women saved countless lives. What if Mr. Sawyer had decided that the best way to go to Calabar was to go to Jibowu and take a bus? Even if he’d chosen to go by air, which would have made his fellow passengers that much easier to trace, the potential damage is incalculable.

The most tragic part of the passing of both women is that they cannot even be buried decently, and with all the respect that their sacrifice demands. The very bug that cut them down is so virulent, so unforgiving, that even that honour, will be deprived them.

The sacrifice that Dr. Adadevoh and Nurse Ejelonu have made is the highest form of sacrifice that any man, or woman, can make for his, or her, fellow human being. It is said that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friend. Both women, and their colleague, put their lives on the line for 170 million of their fellow citizens, many of whom do not even understand the concept of what it means to be a citizen. The very least that Nigeria can do in appreciation, is to honour them. I have a suggestion for such an honour, and not some meaningless title or coin which will soon fall out of use. Nigeria should declare August 19 each year a national holiday, and in the names of both women. That way, some Nigerian child in six decades can ask his parent, “Mummy, who is Stella Ameyo Adadevoh?” And the parent can reply, “That woman saved my life, and the lives of all of us”. It is the least we can do. It is the least we should do.

Comments (19)

  1. may thier soul rest in peace ,And may they be never forgotten

  2. May the Almighty God accept the sacrifices made by the two ladies for the Nigerian people. As for our President, I expect he would make a phone call to the families of Dr Adadevoh and Stella Ejelonu and request them to come to Aso Rock, Abuja – while they are yet to come to terms with their losses – to enable him commiserate with them on this national sacrifice. If you are in doubt, ask the families of Chibok girls.

  3. Brilliant Tribute! Couldn’t have been done better. Brought tears to my eyes, showed me the true picture of things. May the angels welcome them in heaven. God bless them..XX

  4. It was so unfortunate they met their own death in this way. May their gentle souls rest in the blossom of the God Almighty. We will live to remember them with or without a day holiday. Adi eu

  5. may the almighty grant her peaceful rest. She and the nurses were indeed an epitome of selflessness.

  6. I’ld be forever grateful to these women of honor! They paid the ultimate goal for the rest of us yet they were rejected by families & entire concerned nation. May the Almighty Being grant them mercy & place them within the righteous fold of saints, AMEN!!!

  7. May their gentle souls rest in perfect peace. We should call the 19 August, Do a good deed day to your neighbour. Rather than having that day as a holiday, schools, college and Universities should provide an alternative curriculum day, whereby students and pupils are organised in their local Community to help out those in need especially the elderly, disabled, sweep our roads etc, so that when our youth are sent out to carry out such duties they will know why.

  8. Its so sad. Really wishedit didn’t ve to end this way for both wonderful ladies. Its so unfortunate. I actually wonder if any efforts was made by Mr. President on his visit to White house to solicit for Zmapp for treatment and immediate action for the infected medical personnel. May save Nigeria.

  9. America have done their worst,holding on to the drug that can save the life of one of our best,may her soul rest peace.

  10. Nice tribute but Im sure the Dr would have bolted out of her hospital had she got tne fore-knowledge that Mr sawyer is an Ebola patient.Anyway RIP

    1. You are an ABSOLUTE FOOL for such a statement. The fact tha you are such a coward does not mean everyone is like you. Did she not stay even though she knew he might or had Ebola? Did she not stand her ground and insist he would noyt leave the hospital? I’m sure an idiot like you would have agreed for him to leave (either having been given financial incentive or because you are just damm right incompetent and stupid).

      i just hope God is able to provide you with something between your ears….Brains!!!!!

  11. May the Almighty God accept the sacrifices they have made to forgive all their shortcoming,I also suggested in addition to yours that hospital should be renamed after them.

  12. Such a sad one, may the souls of all those who passed as a result of their contact with the said agent of doom, Patrick Sawyer, rest in peace. The Nurse/s, the Doc/s, the attendants and even the regular Nigerian on the street hustling for daily bread and have been cut down by this demonic disease rest on. They shall never be forgotten. May GOD keep the rest of us Health professionals and workers, AMEN.

  13. Please forgive our president Jonathan this is nt politics or money that we benefit he. It touch us may GOD help us in Nigeria

  14. Such a touching tribute. God rest the dead and comfort the living.

  15. this brought tears to my eyes. healthcare professionals are constantly at risk which is why its so sad that the nation including the president have decided to humiliate us so. if this were a civilized nation, no one even has to say too much, the president would have given a speech already praising and commending the staff of first consultants hospital. but no, our ebola jonathan is busy watching omoni oboli;s movies in aso rock. God will judge that man.

  16. Cheta,

    Thank you ever soo much for the brilliant tribute to Ameyo Adadevoh. Ameyo has been my personal and family Dr for over 15 years. She was outstanding, one of the very best you’d find anywhere. I’m one of those who would easily say “That woman saved my life, and the lives of all of us”. ‎And not just my life, she saved my Dad’s too

    I could tell a lot of stories about her. All of us who had the privilege of ever having been managed or attended to by her would. And even more would her colleagues. We’ve all lost an outstanding person, support, redoubt, professional.

    But even as we mourn, we must be grateful that
    Patrick Sawyer ended up before Ameyo and not before some other less confident or less able ‎professional. When eventually the diagnosis became evident, she went beyond the call of duty to contain contamination and take responsibility. For that, she has paid a Supreme price.

    Ameyo always had the Hippocratic Oath hung in front of her on the left wall in her consulting room. I once asked her why? She said if you don’t believe (in) it you shouldn’t be here. She died true to her oath. Our country owes her a debt we can never repay. And let’s please keep her Mum, son and family in our thoughts and prayers.



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