(Photo credit: The Cable/Chidi Odinkalu)
On the 21st of July, 2014 when Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh and nurse Justina Obi Ejelonu of First Consultants Hospital, Obalende, Lagos confirmed that Patrick Sawyer was indeed suffering from the Ebola virus, they had the option - as has become normal nowadays - of doing things the "Nigerian way." They could have quietly snuck out of the hospital and run for the hills to avoid becoming infected or they could have done as Patrick Sawyer had requested and discharge him to continue along his merry way so as to save their hospital from further contamination and the economic loss that could have resulted from its closure.
They did neither. These remarkable ladies along with other brave nursing staff followed the ethics and procedure of their profession to a tee. They immediately had him isolated and quarantined, they set up barrier nursing and informed the relevant health authorities of their diagnosis. In fact it was reported that Dr. Adadevoh had to physically restrain Mr. Sawyer when he became aggressive and attempted to leave the hospital.
Despite seemingly insurmountable pressure from the Liberian embassy and an embarrassing display of rank pulling within influential circles that she release Mr. Sawyer, Dr. Adadevoh stuck to her guns and kept him quarantined. No one was going to badger her into discarding her principles and the strict ethics of her profession on dealing with a patient suffering from such a highly infectious disease. At this point Dr. Adadevoh may have probably known there was a possibility she was infected due to her close contact with Mr. Sawyer. While this knowledge would have left most people devastated and unable to function, Dr. Adadevoh soldiered on undaunted in the task of caring for her patient.
On Tuesday the 19th of August, 2014, brave, gentle, kind hearted Dr. Adadevoh passed away. When a person dies from an affliction or ailment, it is usually said that the person "lost his/her battle" with the ailment. In my view Dr. Adadevoh didn't lose the battle. She won by her strict adherence to prescribed medical procedures, by her keen observation and deductive skills. She won when she put the lives and safety of her countrymen ahead of hers and the economic viability of her establishment. Her name will and should forever be remembered in the history of this country for her courageous actions just as the names of Herbert Macaulay and Samuel Ajayi Crowther are remembered.
When one considers how a pandemic spreads as well as the horrific trail of death and disease that would have been left in the wake of Mr. Sawyer's planned trip from Lagos to Calabar had she succumbed to pressure to discharge him, the magnitude of her actions can be better appreciated. Imagine if you will, Mr. Sawyer traveling from Obalende to the airport in Ikeja, sitting in the departure lounge and then boarding an airtight pressurized aircraft with hundreds of passengers. Add to that the blitzkrieg manner in which other passengers with whom he would have come in contact would have passed on the disease. The loss of lives would have been too catastrophic to visualize.
For foreign readers who may not know how things work in Nigeria it may come as a bit of a surprise that a doctor is receiving praises for simply doing her job. In a country where professionals discard the ethics of their professions, cover up incompetence by ducking responsibility, shift blame for acts of incompetence and ineptitude by declaring them an act of God or as is mostly common, blaming the devil, it is easy to see why Dr. Adadevoh is so deserving of the praises she has received.
Her bravery and courage become even more glaring when we take into account the recent incident involving a doctor in Portharcourt who in contravention of medical ethics and procedure treated a patient who had contact with Patrick Sawyer and was exhibiting symptoms of Ebola in a hotel and did not report to authorities. I shudder to think of what would have happened if this doctor had been the first to attend to Patrick Sawyer.
Some have pointed out that there wasn't a lot that was special about what she did, she was simply doing her job. Agreed but then again when we consider the fact that ours is a country where most people shuffle their feet while standing in one position pretending to do their jobs. In that regard, there should be special recognition for those who actually do their jobs.
Nigeria and Nigerians possess a dizzying array of paradoxes, where the achievements of hardworking, honest and serious individuals are buried in obscurity while the mundane and inconsequential are exalted, praised and prioritized. The President is yet to comment or publicly honor Dr. Adadevoh for the service she rendered to her country at great personal cost, yet he has promised the Super Falconets a heroes' welcome in the event they emerge victorious in the Under 21 Women's Championship.
For those reading this who are privileged to have the President's listening ear, please implore him to grant this courageous lady a posthumous national honor, start a scholarship fund for medical students in her name or name a national holiday after her. Whatever it is, something should be done to honor her. We can't afford to let her name wither away.
One of the greatest tragedies of our time is that the younger generation has no role models to look up to. Dr. Adadevoh by the exemplary life she led and the exceptional professionalism & principle she exhibited up to her death, is exactly the type of role models future generations of this country need to know and learn about.
As Chidi Anselm Odinkalu noted in his article titled "A Tribute to Adadevoh" The Hippocratic Oath was framed and hung prominently on the wall of her office. Perhaps it was there so she would always remember what her profession stood for and what was required of her. I believe even without it Dr. Adadevoh would still perform her duties with the same high standard of professionalism.
Dear Dr. Adadevoh, you had no fancy costumes, you weren't faster than a speeding bullet but you saved thousands of lives by your selfless courage and for that I am grateful. You are and will always be a hero to me.
To Kwami Adadevoh, the Adadevoh family and the family of nurse Justina Obi Ejelonu, please accept my heartfelt condolences. A loss such as this is unimaginably painful. However, with the knowledge that they are being remembered for standing up and doing their job while most would have buckled, in that you should be proud.
To the staff of First Consultants Hospital, thank you for exhibiting professionalism in the face of great odds. Accept my condolences on the loss of a valuable gem in Dr. Adadevoh.
To the Sawyers, a lot of harsh words have come your way for something you had no hand in. Whatever Patrick's intentions may have been, you are also victims in this painful tragedy. Please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss.