by Wilfred Okiche
For 21 years, Ameyo Stella Shade Adadevoh, consultant endocrinologist, and consummate physician reported to work every day at the First Consultants Hospital, Obalende, a well-regarded and multi-specialist private centre in Lagos that thrives on retainership from corporate organizations.
Professional, attentive and up to date on the latest medical advances in her specialty, Adadevoh showed up for work as usual and in a country where a superior commitment to excellence has been downplayed remarkably, in favour of mediocrity, brought upon by favouritism and cronyism, she reminded us that in the real world, heroes are not recognised by their impenetrable costumes or superior physical strength.
No. The day is saved instead by regular human beings who show up on time and go through the grunt work that constitute the sources of their livelihood. The day is is saved by people who do their jobs and do them to the best of their abilities.
For trusting in her clinical instincts and for her dogged insistence on instituting global standard protocols in the management of the Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer who would later be identified as Nigeria’s index Ebola case, Stella Adadevoh heroically pulled the country away from the brink of a deadly epidemic; one that could easily have spiralled out of control.
She also paid with her life.
The deadliest outbreak ever of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), a highly infectious haemorrhagic condition which was traced to Guinea in March 2014 was gradually creating a snowball effect in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia. As has become the norm, government’s pro-activeness in keeping the country insulated was too much to expect and Patrick Sawyer, sick and on the verge of death, entered the country unhindered.
Sawyer was rushed straight to the First Consultant hospital where he first denied coming in contact with any Ebola patient, even though he was well aware that his sister had died of the viral disease. Adadevoh and her team received the ailing Sawyer whom days later, despite being managed competently for Malaria, was not showing any positive results. The Physician in her rose to the occasion and acting on a high index of suspicion, Adadevoh activated the proper protocol for managing Mr Sawyer, placing him in isolation and commencing barrier nursing while at the same time working her contacts at the federal and state ministry of health.
The worst was yet to come though as Sawyer, delirious and irrational worked his own contacts in the Liberian embassy. He demanded to be released from the hospital but was rebuffed sternly by the good doctor who recognised immediately the public health disaster that such a move would create. According to former minister of health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, Adadevoh who had to physically restrain Sawyer when he became violent and yanked off his intravenous tube, spilling fluids across the room went beyond the call of duty. He noted gravely in a press conference, ‘’Indeed if that index case had escaped hospital at that stage, it would have spelt disaster for Nigeria as many more persons would have been very difficult to track and could have become primary contacts.’’
After the death of Sawyer, Adadevoh and members of her team who tested positive for EVD were admitted into the Ebola treatment centre at the Lagos state Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba. Her condition gradually deteriorated and unfortunately, on the afternoon of 19, August, she lost the battle for her life. She is survived by a husband, Afolabi Emmanuel Cardoso and a child, Bankole.
The great granddaughter of prominent nationalist, Herbert Macaulay, Adadaevoh was born on 27, October 1956 to the family of Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh, a seasoned forensic pathologist and academic. She schooled in Lagos and graduated from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos in 1980 after qualifying as a medical doctor. Residency training was at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital Idi-Araba and she underwent further specialist training at Hammersmith hospital, England before returning home. For the last 21 years, she worked at First Consultants hospital.
It is indeed rare that heroes reveal themselves but Adadevoh’s singular act of sacrifice stands out confidently and deserves to be told on the mountain and beyond. Sadly, due to EVD’s highly infectious nature, the stigma associated, plus the lack of information available at the onset of the outbreak, health worker volunteer apathy was quite high and it seemed for a while that Adadevoh and her colleagues would not be getting the help that they deserved.
Whenever there is an outbreak, health workers are usually the primary contacts and as a result, mortality levers are quite high among this population. Because of this, volunteer doctors from the Centre for Disease Control and Medecins Sans Frontieres initially had to convince and train local health workers to help out in the isolation centre. Since December 2013, the number of confirmed cases and deaths among health care professionals have soared astronomically. More than 600 doctors, nurses and other health workers have been infected so far and more than 300 of them have died.
As Adadevoh and her colleagues were battling for their lives in the make shift isolation wards, information began to permeate; both on the disease itself and on the nature of sacrifice these brave soldiers made and the much needed help began to show up.
There has been a terrifying lack of public examples for people to look up to in recent times but Adadevoh’s courage and ultimate act of sacrifice shifted the Nigerian narrative for the better. A thorough professional at the core, she understood the full magnitude of the challenge that presented itself before her and went ahead to make the right call. A lesser doctor (and human being) could have handled the curious case of Patrick Sawyer in many other ways and the results of such in(actions) are indeed too terrifying to consider.
An example is the late Doctor, Iyke Enemuo who put his immediate family and indeed, the people of Rivers state at extreme risk when he accepted to treat a suspected Ebola case in a hotel room. 2 cases of professionals finding themselves at important crossroads. While Enemuo chose the route to fast riches and death, Adadevoh made the conscientious decision to uphold the Hippocratic oath she swore over 30 years ago, saving lives, even if it did cost her hers at the end.
The government may tarry in recognising her efforts but it has become our sacred duty to keep her memory alive even as incompetent government officials fall over themselves to take credit for halting Ebola’s progress in Nigeria, it is indeed clear who Nigerians owe a debt of gratitude to.
Thankfully, this hero’s sacrifice has not been in vain, evident in Nigeria’s success in containing the spread. After managing 20 confirmed cases, including 8 deaths, Nigeria was declared Ebola free on the 20th of October with its containment model held up as a spectacular success story for the whole world to learn from. This much lauded containment plan began the moment, Adadevoh was called in to review Mr Sawyer’s case.
Scoring 44 per cent of the polls to emerge winner of the YNaija Person Of The Year polls, Adadevoh gives us one more reason to believe in the country and in its professionals.
For promoting the public health of the country and putting herself in harm’s way that we all may live, for her hawk-eyed clinical and diagnostic acumen that enabled her zero in on a diagnosis that is every doctor’s worst nightmare, for courage under fire and a firm determination to do the right thing, for placing herself on the line so that a lot more people may live, for showing up at the right time, for doing her job and doing it extremely well, and for kicking off Nigeria’s successful Ebola management response and paying the ultimate sacrifice, Ameyo Stella Adadevoh is the YNaija Person of the Year 2014.
May her soul rest in perfect peace.