3 years ago, this hero saved Nigeria from the deadly Ebola
It's been three years since Dr. Stella Adadevoh put her life on the line for Nigerians. Pulse will never forget.
Sawyer was wheeled into the emergency unit of the First Consultant Clinic—a family health facility in Lagos--on the night of July 20, 2014. As it turned out, he was carrying the deadly Ebola virus in his blood stream.
He should never have been allowed on a plane, but here he was in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.
Here he was in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city.
It was at a time when Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone had been declared Ebola epicenters. It was at a time when all of West Africa was in panic from being wiped out by the deadly Ebola.
The rest of the world was praying that Ebola never found its way into Nigeria, a country of over 170 million people. The consequences for the rest of humanity if it did, were better imagined.
Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, the lead physician and Endocrinologist at the First Consultant Clinic, was the one who raised the red flag. Sawyer, she diagnosed, was carrying the Ebola virus.
If he left the hospital, the rest of her country was going to be in danger.
Sawyer, at this point, was a pictorial representation of all the symptoms of Ebola including vomiting, extreme temperature and diarrhea.
Nigeria’s index Ebola patient who had lost a sister to the hemorrhagic infectious virus back home in Liberia, was reportedly in Lagos to seek a miracle from Prophet TB Joshua of the Synagogue.
Sawyer was intent on leaving the hospital on his own terms, but Dr. Adedevoh wouldn’t let him. She was having none of it.
"Immediately, he was very aggressive. He was more intent on leaving the hospital than anything else," recalls DrBenjamin Ohiaeri, the Director of First Consultant Hospital, to the BBC.
"He was screaming. He pulled his intravenous tubes and spilled the blood everywhere," Ohiaeri added.
Dr. Adadevoh stood her grounds and made it clear Sawyer was going nowhere. It was her call to isolate the index patient, initiate contact tracing technique and inform the health authorities in Nigeria.
And she did.
But not without immense pressure from the Liberian government.
According to Ohiaeri, "the Liberian Ambassador started calling Dr Adadevoh, putting pressure on her and the institution. He felt we were kidnapping the gentleman and said it was a denial of his fundamental rights and we could face further actions”.
But Adadevoh didn’t budge. She stood in the gap between a difficult patient who was throwing his toys out of the pram and a nation of millions of citizens.
According to Dr. Ada Igonoh, another physician at the hospital who also contracted the Ebola virus but survived, “As we were preparing for the early-morning ward rounds, I was approached by an ECOWAS official who informed me that Patrick Sawyer had to catch an 11 o’clock flight to for a retreat that morning.
“He wanted to know if it would be possible. I told him it wasn’t, as he was acutely ill.
“Dr. Adadevoh also told him the patient could certainly not leave the hospital in his condition. She then instructed me to write very boldly on his chart that on no account should Patrick Sawyer be allowed out of the hospital premises without the permission of Dr. Ohiaeri, our chief medical consultant. All Nurses and Doctors were duly informed”.
Igonoh continued: “During our early-morning ward round with Dr. Adadevoh, we concluded that this was not malaria and that the patient needed to be screened for She immediately started calling laboratories to find out where the test could be carried out.
“She was eventually referred to Professor Omilabu of the Virology Reference Lab in whom she called immediately. Prof. Omilabu told her to send blood and urine samples to LUTH straight away. She tried to reach the Lagos state commissioner for health but was unable to contact him at the time. She also put calls across to officials of the federal ministry of health and national centre for disease control.
“Dr. Adadevoh at this time was in a pensive mood. Patrick Sawyer was now a suspected case of Ebola, perhaps the first in the country. He was quarantined, and strict barrier nursing was applied with all the precautionary measures we could muster.
“Dr. Adadevoh went online, downloaded information on Ebola and printed copies, which were distributed to the Nurses, Doctors and ward maids. Blood and urine samples were sent to LUTH that morning. Protective gear, gloves, shoe covers and face-masks were provided for the staff. A wooden barricade was placed at the entrance of the door to keep visitors and unauthorised personnel away from the patient”.
Sawyer is dead
Sawyer died on July 25, 2014.
As Igonoh tells it: “At 6:30am, Friday July 25, I got a call from the Nurse that Patrick Sawyer was completely unresponsive. Again I put on the protective gear and headed to his room.
"I found him slumped in the bathroom. I examined him and observed that there was no respiratory movement. I felt for his pulse; it was absent. We had lost him. It was I who certified Patrick Sawyer dead. I informed Dr. Adadevoh immediately and she instructed that no one was to be allowed to go into his room for any reason at all”.
However, Adadevoh’s heroics would cost her her life.
Soon after Sawyer passed on, Adadevoh became an Ebola patient herself. Exposure to the index patient had put her life--and those of 11 other Doctors at First Consultant--at risk.
The Doctor had become the patient.
Bankole Cardoso, Adadevoh’s only son, told the BBC that his Mum’s last moments were jarring.
“From the day the index patient arrived in Nigeria, my father and I were constantly asking my mother and making sure she was OK. We were aware of what could come.
"She was fine all along and then suddenly it became apparent. We were seeing little signs and so of course there was panic and confusion.
"On the first day, I was able to come close and at least stand by the window and have a conversation with her, the second day the same thing.
"I took her things to make her comfortable - towels and slippers and then suddenly the next day I couldn't even go near the window.
"As every day went on while she was there - it appeared she may pull through and on my birthday on a Sunday it was the most optimistic day.
"Then on the Monday we went in and the whole story had changed - they called us into a room and just explained that this is exactly what is going to happen and it's not even a matter of days anymore. It might be hours. That was of course the most crushing time of my life," says Cardoso.
Death of a hero
On August 19, 2014, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, was certified dead after saving her country.
"We lost some of our best staff. Dr Adadevoh had been working with us for 21 years and was perhaps one of the most brilliant physicians. I worked with her. I know that she was sheer genius," says Dr Ohiaeri.
Cardoso says it is still amazing what his Mum was able to pull off, in the most difficult of circumstances, for her country.
"I'd had such a big loss that I was trying to close myself off from everything. So it was hard for me and then with time it became more and more apparent exactly what she had done," Cardoso says.
"By identifying the index patient, it really helped Nigeria to prepare and get ready to trace everybody and I think that's the difference between us and our West African neighbours - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," he adds.
Cardoso was overwhelmed by the praise his Mum received from the local press after she passed on.
"I wonder how one individual has so much connection with so many people. So, it's like we shared her with everybody; which is special."
It's been three years since the horrific events of 2014 and Nigeria remains eternally grateful to the Adadevohs and all the Doctors and Nurses who put their lives on the line in order to stave off Ebola from the country.
Certainly, not all heroes wear capes. Some wear protective medical gear.
At Pulse, we'll certainly never forget the supreme sacrifice of Dr. Adadevoh.
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