Africa Link pays tribute to Dr. Ada Igonoh, the young female medical doctor who came into brief contact with Dr. Patrick Sawyer, the index case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria, contracted the deadly virus and survived to give us a rare insight into her harrowing experience of Ebola. Dr. Sawyer succumbed to the infection at the First Consultants Medical Centre in Obalende, Lagos where Dr. Igonoh had attended to him. We salute Dr. Igonoh for sharing with us her extraordinary story of faith and courage as death stared her in the face and threatened to overwhelm her as it had done to some of her colleagues. Her story, told simply without embellishment or undue emotion, emphasizes once again the extraordinary power of ordinary people in influencing and sometimes determining the very course of history.
The professionalism of the medical personnel of the First Consultants Medical Centre and the steps they took to shield others from the virus is highly commendable. Nigeria owes a debt of unlimited gratitude to Dr. Amevo Adadevo, the Senior Consultant who unfortunately did not survive the virus for the valiant effort she and her colleagues put up in keeping Ebola from getting into the Nigerian population. She deserves not just posthumous recognition but a memorial and a substantial and lasting compensation to her family.
Through Dr. Igonoh’s narrative, we have also been reminded of the valiant and sacrificial role that personnel of the World Health Organization (WHO) and some NGOs play in the face of challenges like Ebola, where they may also be battling with several unknowns, thus putting themselves at risk at the cutting edge of the fight against deadly diseases.
She has also given us an insight into some of the exasperating ironies of the human condition. The story of Mrs. Justina Ejelonu, as told by Dr. Igonoh, makes the heart bleed. “Later that evening, Dr. David brought another lady into the ward. I recognized her immediately as Justina Ejelonu, a nurse who had started working at First Consultants on the 21st of July, a day after Patrick Sawyer was admitted. She was on duty on the day Patrick reported that he was stooling. While she was attending to him that night, he had yanked off his drip, letting his blood flow almost like a tap onto her hands. Justina was pregnant and was brought into our ward bleeding from a suspected miscarriage. She had been told she was there only on observation. The news that she had contracted Ebola was broken to her the following day after results of her blood test came out positive. Justina was devastated and wept profusely – she had contracted Ebola on her first day at work.”
Nurse Justina Ejelonu did not survive. She lost both her pregnancy and her life.
Africa Link pays tribute to her and condolences to her family for this unforgettable loss.
As the world celebrates with Nigeria for being declared Ebola-free, the country, indeed the world needs to give more than a passing nod to the brave staff of the First Consultants medical Centre Obalende, who braved and survived the terrible virus. We also need to recognize particularly, those who paid the price for keeping the virus from taking hold in Nigeria with their lives.