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2 Unsung heros & Martyrs of Ebola the doctors and frontline workers

For the world and all of us there is one consolation: the knowledge that while Ebola may have killed Dr Stella Adadevoh, she in turn may have stopped it killing thousands or even millions of other Nigerians.

Dr Stella Adadevoh, was not a virology or public-health expert, simply a duty consultant at the First Consultant Hospital, a private clinic in Lagos. It was her sharp-eyed diagnosis, however, that identified Nigeria’s first case of the virus – a 40-year-old civil servant called Patrick Sawyer, who flew in to Lagos from Ebola-devastated Liberia in July.

Dr Sam Brisbane was on the front line of the battle and had to choose between his own life, and that of his patients. Dr Sam Brisbane, died recently. He was a Liberian doctor, and he died from Ebola, a horrible, nightmarish disease.Sam Brisbane was the first doctor to die of Ebola in West Africa.

Tribute to this singular physician does not ignore the dedicated work of present physicians, support staff, and grave diggers, but like Dr. Sheik Umar Khan of Sierra Leone, who died of EVD on July 29, 2014, Dr. Adadevoh gave her life at a time when the world health machinery had barely got in gear. She very likely saved Nigeria from a nightmarish spread of Ebola that could have impacted other countries far beyond the borders of West Africa’s most populous nation.

The Cuban Ministry of Health has confirmed that a doctor from Cuba has tested positive for Ebola. He was part of a medical team that had gone to Sierra Leone to treat Ebola patients in early October.

The ancients had a concept of a "good death" – dying for one's country, for example, or gloriously on the battlefield. Solon, the sage of Athens, argued that one couldn't judge a person's happiness until one knew the manner of his death. The Greeks recognized that we're all destined to die and that the best we can hope for is a death that benefits our family or humanity.

It has long been the peculiar burden of health care workers to weigh the risk of infection against the duty to treat and the professional pull of helping a sick patient. That calculation is different for every person, and often uncertain as the dangers of new infectious agents become known.

“If an Ebola patient came to my unit right now, I wouldn’t know how to take care of the patient, how to protect myself, or how to protect the other patients,” said Matron Otieno, an intensive care unit nurse at a local University Medical Center. “The hospital has told us they have the right equipment, but I don’t know where it is, and I haven’t been trained to use it.”…. but I wouldn t know before even the tests have been carried out…… “It brings up the question of what is the moral responsibility of the health care worker.”

While every hospital may have a preparedness plan for disasters and infectious disease, putting that into practice is a more complicated matter. Hospitals have to take more responsibility to ensure workers safety. “Learning to use new equipment and following new practices in the middle of a crisis is hard to do” she added.

I have tremendous admiration for doctors and all other frontline staff fighting ebola in West Africa: It’s been inspiring to hear health care workers saying ‘I’m a doctor, these are my people. There’s no choice.’ It’s a fundamental reminder of what it means to be healthcare provider. They are true professionals. They have put the welfare of there patients above their own safety.

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For the world and all of us there is one consolation: the knowledge that while Ebola may have killed Dr Stella Adadevoh, she in turn may have stopped it killing thousands or even millions of other Nigerians.

Dr Stella Adadevoh, was not a virology or public-health expert, simply a duty consultant at the First Consultant Hospital, a private clinic in Lagos.

It was her sharp-eyed diagnosis, however, that identified Nigeria’s first case of the virus – a 40-year-old civil servant called Patrick Sawyer, who flew in to Lagos from Ebola-devastated Liberia in July.

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