On this day (20th July) two years ago (2014) , a 40 year old Liberian-American in person of Mr Patrick Sawyer flew into Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammad Airport, Lagos to attend an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conference. His unannounced entrance became a watershed and trajectory in the course of our national history. Our healthcare system was stretched, public health threatened and lives were endangered. Professionalism and patriotism were brought to bear in the following days and weeks and some people paid the price of their life at the end.
Patrick Sawyer, a staff of ArcelorMittal, an iron mining company in Bucharan, Liberia, had contact with his sister who died of Ebola Virus disease about two weeks earlier. He was relieved of his work and placed on isolation but he defaulted. Video footage at the James Spriggs Payne’s Airport, Monrovia, before his departure, revealed that he avoided personal contacts with airport officials and other passengers as much as possible. He was even seen lying on her stomach on the floor of the corridor of the airport, giving credence to the assertion that he knew he was down with the dreaded Ebola virus. He became terribly ill on his flight to Lagos and was taken to First Consultant Hospital, Obalende, Lagos on his arrival. Sawyer’s actions and inactions denied, deprive and deprived of humanity.
Many questions beg for answer from the attitude of Patrick Sawyer. Why did he come out of isolation? Was he afraid of dying in Liberia? Why did he deny having contact with Ebola patient? What were his reasons for pressing for discharge against medical advice? Why did he turn violent, to the extent of urinating on the ward? These and many more would continue to beg for answer.
The patriotism and professionalism of one woman made the difference for Nigeria. Dr Stella Adadevoh, a consultant endocrinologist was a rare gem, a workaholic, energetic, selfless and a fine clinician. She led her team from the front. She personally restrained Patrick Sawyer from getting out of the ward when he became violent. She knew fully well that her life would be in danger of getting infected with the virus but she could not stand the public health implication on her dear country if she did not stand in the gap. She later became positive to the virus and subsequently died a month after she wrestled against Patrick Sawyer and Ebola virus. The heroic action of Dr Stella Adadevoh changed the course of the Ebola epidemics in Nigeria. If she did not stand her ground despite Sawyer’s violent tantrum and flaunting of his diplomat status and allowed him to get to Calabar for the ECOWAS conference, it would have spelt doom for the nation. Many would have had contact with him and tracing would have been almost impossible. It would have been a national disaster.
Two years on, yet this woman has not been honoured. The country she died for decided to put her memory in oblivion. No wonder act of patriotism and heroism are lacking in our national life. Patriotism is not rewarded, selflessness is not encouraged and life of sacrifice is not appreciated. Stella Adadevoh deserves a national honour. For France to have honoured the three Americans who botched terrorist attack on a from Germany to France in August 2015 with Legion Honour – France’s highest recognition, it is not too much for Nigeria to bestow on Dr Stella Adadevoh a national honour. Sincerely, she deserves the highest national honour of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As we remember today, 20th July, we remember a woman who loved her country so much that she counted her life not too much to put on the line when it was required. How would Nigeria have remembered this day if Stella Adadevoh did not rise to the occasion?
For: Stella Adadevoh Support Group – SASGS