This weekend, the final ceremonies for Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh will be concluded. The late Dr. Adadevoh and my group of friends went from young adults in the Pre-Medicine class at the University of Lagos to registered medical practitioners in what seems like just yesterday.
In my mind, I can still see us walking down the corridors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital everyday, for lectures and ward rounds, and seeking all kinds of amusement while doing that.
Since graduation, we had contact on and off. The last time, I was in Nigeria for my son’s wedding Dr. Adadevoh and I spoke on the telephone for more than two hours. We had a lot to catch up on, and promised to do a better job keeping in touch. And then Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) came to Nigeria!
Dr. Adadevoh was a truly good soul. She had no malice in her. Her dimpled smiles disarmed even the most hardened person. She taught me to look for the good in everything and everyone. She gave the most thoughtful birthday presents of anyone I know.
Since hearing the news about the introduction of EVD into Nigeria, I have had the most horrible nightmares. Nightmares that became a panic upon hearing that, my friend Dr. Adadevoh had contacted the dreaded disease.
Anyone who has worked in the heath system in Nigeria knows how rudimentary medical care is. We all know that if we were to require any emergency life sustaining care, we were done for. We know and pray hard for God’s healing for our patients who require same.
Despite our outstanding knowledge and skills, we are left with very little to help treat and save our poor patients who have any disease other than the most basic. It is therefore no surprise that EVD, which requires life-sustaining measures while the body deals with it, will kill even the healthiest of its victims.
As I watched the press conference of the discharge from hospital of the American doctor the other day, I could not help but be struck by the comparison between these two physicians. They were both doctors doing what they are trained to do, they were both practicing in a developing country, they both contracted EVD, but one is dead and one is alive.
While there can be a lot of medical reasons, I could not help thinking maybe the only difference between them is that one is Nigerian and the other is American. The doctors at Emory University in Atlanta are of the opinion that what probably saved their patient was the intensive life sustaining methods they were able to provide to the patient while his body fights the disease with or without the help of the experimental drug ZMAPP.
I am deeply saddened that my friend did not have any help in her quest to fight the disease. I am greatly disturbed that someone who spent her entire life taking care of the sick was allowed to die like that.
I am greatly disturbed that other healthcare workers who were infected with her have also been left to die. I am worried that the management of EVD in patients in Nigeria is much below the standard.
The Ebola outbreak continues unabated in Liberia, Sierra-Leone and other countries and my question is “What effect will the death of my friend have on this dreaded epidemic? Are more and more healthcare workers going to die neglected like she did?”
Recent news that President Obama had directed that a military style hospital be set up in Liberia to treat healthcare workers who contract Ebola while taking care of patients lifted my spirits.
I believe this decision is based on the appreciation of the fact that in order to effectively control the Ebola crisis and slow transmission of the virus, it is important that healthcare workers on frontline know that they are not just going to be left to die if they contract the disease.
This disease is different from any. Healthcare workers have dealt with it in the past. It seems the usual universal precautions are not enough to protect people taking care of these patients. This creates genuine fear in carers that needs to be addressed.
The Nigerian Medical Association should advocate on behalf of healthcare workers to set up a unit like the US-sponsored Liberian one for medical workers who contract EVD.
This is important because according to the World Health Organization (WHO) the disease is now spreading like wildfire and it is going to get worse before it gets better.
The Nigerian Government would like to say the disease is contained in Nigeria, but the fact is that it has now spread to Port Harcourt. While we pray that Ebola does not hit hard in Nigeria, as seen in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone, we have to work actively to prevent it.
I implore the Nigerian government to establish well-equipped Ebola treatment units like the one Obama is sending to Liberia, and in memory of my friend, Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh.
I am not asking that healthcare workers who contract Ebola be treated differently. What I am saying is that they need to have access to all possible life-sustaining methods that is available. Dr. Adadevoh did not have that.
Our government did not try hard enough to obtain all that was necessary to help her fight the disease. If they did, she may still be alive today. And who knows how many more people she would have gone on to save.
Our country can afford this. Let it be the beginning of the necessary change to our healthcare system. Such a unit will be the beginning of something different, a commitment to do better for Nigerians. Then, my friend would not have died in vain. Let this be her legacy.
The whole country has expressed gratitude to her for saving the country from catastrophe. The Nigerian government can now do something for healthcare workers in Nigeria and immortalize Dr. Adadevoh forever. No one is more deserving of that honor.
Sleep well, my friend till we meet again. You are sorely missed.