Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh was the Lead Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist at a private hospital in Lagos, Nigeria where she worked for 21 years. She had never seen Ebola before but was able to diagnose and contain Nigeria’s first-ever Ebola patient in July 2014. When threatened by Liberian officials who wanted the patient to be discharged to attend a conference, she resisted the pressure and said, “for the greater public good” she would not release him.
Since Nigeria’s health system was not prepared for an outbreak at the time, she contracted Ebola and died alongside 3 of her colleagues. Her heroic efforts prevented a major outbreak in the most populous African country and served as the catalyst for successful government action to contain the spread of what would have been a major outbreak in a country of more than 190 million people.
As a result of her keen perception, courage, and steadfastness, all 20 Ebola cases in Nigeria were traced to a single path of transmission originating with the first (index) patient who took a flight from Monrovia, Liberia to Lagos. This is what differentiated the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria from the outbreaks in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where the index patients were not initially diagnosed or contained.
The World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free on the 20th of October 2014.
Dr. Adadevoh’s family lineage reinforces her role as a patriot, leader, and heroine.
Her paternal great grandfather, Herbert Samuel Macaulay, was a prominent politician and is considered to be the founding father of Nigerian nationalism. He established the first political party and his portrait is on Nigeria’s N1 (one naira) coin.
Her maternal great-uncle was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria, a respected modern nationalist, and one of the most revered politicians in Nigerian history.
Her father, Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh, was a renowned physician, distinguished scientist, lecturer, author, and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos. He served as a consultant and advisor to numerous international organizations such as the World Health Organization and several United Nations agencies and commissions.
Dr. Adadevoh’s sacrifice prevented a national or possibly global catastrophe. This may not have been the case if Mr. Sawyer ended up in a different hospital under the care of a different doctor, which is why DRASA is committed to ensuring Nigeria has a healthy society supported by a strong healthcare system that is prepared to prevent, detect, and contain infectious disease outbreaks. Click the icon below to learn more about our work.
In 2012, H1N1 (swine flu) spread to Lagos, Nigeria and Dr. Adadevoh was the first doctor to diagnose and alert the Ministry of Health. Less than 2 years later, she was again the first doctor to identify another contagious virus – Ebola.
On July 20th 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. Dr. 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 Dr. Adadevoh discharge Mr. Sawyer so he could attend the ECOWAS conference. 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.
Lagos State – and Nigeria as a whole – was not ready for Mr. Sawyer. Dr. Adadevoh and her team did what they could with the limited resources and supplies they had in the hospital to treat Mr. Sawyer. His Ebola diagnosis was later confirmed, and he died at FCMC.
Dr. Adadevoh’s accurate and swift diagnosis of Mr. 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 total. 11 were healthcare workers and of those healthcare workers, 6 survived and 5 died, including Dr. Adadevoh.