The incessant strike actions embarked on by medical doctors in public hospitals are a grave injustice to members of the public and a far cry from the high expectations of the people, a view held by many. Doctors on the other hand believe they need to make profound statements if and when sensitive agreements are breached and demands are not met. After all, they have their own lives, families, and responsibilities. Whichever party is right or wrong does not matter to the ones that bear the brunt of these arguments – the embattled patients who just want to be well looked after.
These tussles notwithstanding, the contributions of doctors to public health are engraved in gold and some are not just bound by oath but by a genuine love for others and by nationalism. Such was the case of Dr. Stella Adadevoh Ameyo- or what love could be greater than laying down one’s life for a fellow man?
Dr. Adadevoh was born on the 27th of October 1956, the great-granddaughter of Herbert Macaulay and the daughter of former vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos. On the 4th of August 2014, she was confirmed positive for Ebola virus disease after placing Patrick Sawyer in quarantine. She, however, died on the afternoon of 19th August 2014. Putting herself in harm’s way and working shifts after shifts to save lives was the colourful routine that painted the life of Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, a consultant endocrinologist at First Consultants Medical Centre, Lagos. The Hippocratic Oath was not just a motif that rounded off all the many years of studies at medical schools; for her, it was an oath to live by. Nationalism and piety flowed in her veins having descended from Herbert Macaulay, a foremost Nigerian nationalist, and Samuel Ajayi Crowder, the first African Anglican Bishop; little wonder then why her passion was to serve humanity. And in service, she excelled greatly till her final breath.
In a 140,000,000 populated Nigeria where health systems are just picking up pace, a stop to the spread of Ebola Virus Disease would have been thought impossible given the nature and virulence of the virus. An incidence that would have exploded into a disastrous epidemic was averted by the sheer will of a woman who knew her onions well and would not cower to the powers that be. If not for her, the rest of the country would definitely have been consumed with nursing the wounds of the disease. She was so given up to that singular goal of preventing the spread of the disease that all attempts to force her to release Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American ECOWAS official who brought the virus into the country, were met with stiff resistance.
Twenty cases of the infection were linked to Mr. Sawyer. He had infected people with whom he had contact in Lagos and was set to infect more on his way to Calabar; we can easily imagine the damage that would have been done. Of the twenty infected patients, 8 people died.
At the time of the outbreak, the Nigerian Medical Association was on an industrial strike action to make demands and voice concerns about their safety at work. Doctors deserted public hospitals, patients were dying. Given the gravity of the case, she could have referred the patient to a tertiary hospital but she quarantined him instead. And thank goodness, the doctors in the public facilities were on strike. It was a blessing in disguise, the hands of providence. Like Confucious, the Chinese philosopher said “there is good in everything but not everyone sees it”. It is however certain that most Nigerians saw the good in the strike action. Otherwise, the contacts with Mr. Patrick could have increased and the doctor in charge may not have been as strong-willed as Adadevoh.
The index patient’s symptoms were suggestive of malaria and confirmed by laboratory tests but the patient was not responsive to treatment. Instead, signs indicative of hemorrhagic fever were seen and Dr. Adadevoh suspected the patient had Ebola. Quickly, she swept to action, downloaded information on the disease, and informed her nurses, doctors, and ward maids. It was not the first time she had provided the staff of the hospital with reading materials to keep them informed. She understood the gravity of education. The Ebola epidemic was one incidence that perturbed the unsettled equilibrium of the world. We were certainly not prepared to face yet another crisis – an epidemic with almost a hundred percent mortality rate – and most certainly, Nigerians were never prepared
Dr. Adadevoh was a member of the Nigerian Medical Association, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, British – Nigerian Association, Endocrine and Metabolism Society of Nigeria, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, and National Postgraduate Medical College. She served as a Non-Executive Director of Learn Africa Plc and a writer for the first-ever “Ask the Doc” column in Today’s Woman Magazine.
An indelible mark lies surely in the heart of humanity and especially of Nigerians for the sacrifice she made, for her courage and selfless service. If you are reading this, you probably were not infected but could have been.
For her family, what compensations would be enough to match the love of a wife, the care of a mother, and the companionship of a sister? What could be used to honour Adadevoh? The labours of our heroes past must not be in vain, for they served with all their heart and might when the call came.
Rest on, Dr. Stella Adadevoh. We love you, and you will forever be in our hearts.
WHO Ebola Facts
- The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days.
- The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
- The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks
- The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa.