Remembering Dr Stella Adadevoh, daughter of ex-UNILAG VC, who helped Nigeria nip Ebola

A time like this when Nigeria is throwing different measures in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, brings back memory of Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh's heroics in 2014. Adadevoh's heroics saved the nation from what could have become a catastrophic situation in 2014 when the Ebola virus was wreaking havoc in many African countries.

Call her a hero and you won't be exaggerating, Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh deserves every posthumous honour she is receiving for the action she took "for the greater public good" in July 2014 – the year Ebola virus raced through West Africa and other parts of the world.

On July 20 2014, a certain Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American who was in isolation in Liberia after having contact with his sister who died of Ebola, flew to Lagos to attend a conference of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) billed to hold in Calabar, Cross River State. On his arrival, he collapsed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. It was a time doctors in public hospitals in Nigeria were on an indefinite strike and by a rare twist of fate the diplomat had to be taken to a private hospital. Among the arrays of private hospitals in Lagos, Sawyer's best option was the First Consultants Medical Centre (FCMC) in Ikoyi, where Dr. Adadevoh worked.

Initial tests showed Sawyer had malaria, but his condition got worse. Adadevoh took interest in Sawyer's case, alerted the Lagos State and Federal Ministries of Health and got him tested for Ebola despite his denial of having contact with an Ebola victim. At that time pressure was already mounting on the hospital from the Liberian Embassy and ECOWAS to release Sawyer to attend his conference in Calabar, but Adadevoh told them that "for the greater public good" she would not release him until the result of the test was out.

Sawyer died of Ebola four days after arriving at the hospital. The resilience of Dr Adadevoh helped the government to trace all those who had contact with the index case and helped nip the outbreak in the bud before it escalated. While Ebola virus killed more than 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone that year, Nigeria had 20 cases. 11 were healthcare workers and of those healthcare workers, six survived and five died, including Dr. Adadevoh.

Adadevoh tested positive for Ebola on August 4, 2014 and died on August 19. Her heroics helped Nigeria avert a major outbreak and spread of the virus beyond the hospital. It also made the fight against Ebola look so effortless and gave Nigeria the courage to prepare for COVID-19. This is why many Nigerians are always quick to make reference to how the country handled Ebola whenever there is a discourse on the fight against COVID-19.

Though she became famous for helping Nigeria stop Ebola from finding its way into the city center, Dr Adadevoh was the first doctor to diagnose and alert the country's Ministry of Health to a case of swine flu (H1N1) in Lagos in 2012. The Swine flu, a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza virus in pigs, swept through the world from 2009 to 2010 with over 200,000 fatalities worldwide.

A fruit doesn't fall far from the tree. Her father, Prof Babatunde Adadevoh, was also a renowned physician and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos. He was a consultant and advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO) and several United Nations agencies and commissions. Her grandfather Sir Herbert Macaulay was one of Nigeria's nationalists.

Adadevoh was an alumnus of the University of Lagos. She has been honoured with several posthumous awards. A Nollywood film "93 Days" which tells the story of the treatment of Sawyer by Adadevoh and other medical staff at First Consultant Medical Center, was dedicated to Adadevoh.

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