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Ameyo Stella Adadevoh: The Woman who stopped the Ebola Plague in Nigeria

Great-great-great-granddaughter of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, great-granddaughter of Herbert Macaulay, grandniece of President Nnamdi Azikiwe, daughter of the 4th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh (1933 – 1997), Ameyoh Stella Shade Adadevoh (October 27, 1956-August 19, 2014) was the Nigerian doctor who oversaw the treatment of Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian national who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria.

Adadevoh vehemently turned down a request by Sawyer’s employers to have him discharged so he could catch a flight to Calabar, a coastal city 750km from Lagos, where he had been due to attend a conference.

Adadevoh was born in Lagos in 1956. Her father was Babatunde Adadevoh, a professor of chemical pathology and, between 1978 and 1980, the vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos. She lived most of her life in Lagos, spending the last 21 years working at the First Consultant Hospital in Obalende, Lagos Island.

Adadevoh’s heroic and patriotic deeds will for long be remembered. She took it upon herself to help Nigeria prevent further spread of the virus as she took the case to the government.

Image of Ameyo Stella Adadevoh
Ameyo Stella Shade Adadevoh (1956-2014)

She put her foot down and prevented Sawyer from leaving the hospital when it was confirmed that he had Ebola.

Adadevoh’s sacrifice prevented a national or possibly global catastrophe. This may not have been the case if Sawyer ended up in a different hospital under the care of a different doctor.

In 2012, when swine flu spread to Lagos, Adadevoh was the first doctor to diagnose and alert the Ministry of Health. Less than 2 years later in 2014, she was again the first doctor to identify another contagious virus – Ebola.

They threatened to sue her for kidnapping and violating his human rights (holding him against his will because she did not have a confirmed diagnosis) but she continued to resist their relentless pressure and said that “for the greater public good” she would not release him.

On July 20, 2014, Patrick Sawyer, Nigeria’s first Ebola patient, left quarantine in Liberia and flew to Lagos, Nigeria to attend a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He collapsed at the airport in Lagos and was taken to First Consultants Medical Centre (FCMC), the private hospital where Dr. Adadevoh worked. 

Under normal circumstances as an ECOWAS official, he should have been taken to a government hospital, but the doctors at all government health facilities were on an indefinite strike so he was taken to FCMC.

The first doctor at FCMC who saw Mr. Sawyer diagnosed him with malaria. When Dr. Adadevoh saw him during her ward round the following day, she suspected Ebola despite the initial malaria diagnosis and the fact that neither she nor any other doctor in Nigeria had ever seen Ebola before.

Adadevoh questioned Mr. Sawyer about having contact with anyone with Ebola, which he denied. Being the thorough clinician she was, she immediately contacted the Lagos State and Federal Ministries of Health and got him tested for Ebola.

While waiting for the test results, the patient and other Liberian government officials began insisting that Adadevoh discharge Sawyer so he could attend the ECOWAS conference but she refused. They threatened to sue her for kidnapping and violating his human rights (holding him against his will because she did not have a confirmed diagnosis) but she continued to resist their relentless pressure and said that “for the greater public good” she would not release him.

However, Adadevoh and her team did what they could with the limited resources and supplies they had in the hospital to treat Sawyer. His Ebola diagnosis was later confirmed, and he died at FCMC.

Dr. Adadevoh’s accurate and swift diagnosis of Sawyer resulted in the Nigerian government mobilizing the necessary resources to deal with an Ebola outbreak. Her actions allowed for a much more strategic containment of the virus across the country and the Nigerian government was able to successfully trace all possible contacts from the index patient, Patrick Sawyer. There were 20 Ebola cases in total. 11 were healthcare workers and of those healthcare workers, 6 survived and 5 died, including Dr. Adadevoh.

In her last moments, she received intravenous fluids and oxygen support and was being monitored closely by doctors from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Eventually, she died of the virus on August 19, 2014. She was 57.

Adadevoh was a member of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, MWAN, British-Nigerian Association, 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 Women Magazine, among other accomplishments.

As of today, Dr. Adadevoh has received 19 awards and honours, albeit posthumously. She was survived by her husband, Afolabi Cardoso and only son, Bankole Cardoso.

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Ayomide Akinbode

Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.

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