OPINION: Two different Stellas

There is a medical doctor called Stella Immanuel who is making some noisy waves in the United States now. She reminds us of another doctor, also called Stella but of stellar qualities whose father Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh was also a physician. He later became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos. Dr. Stella Adadevoh was trained at the University of Lagos as a general practitioner who later went to the University of London to train as an endocrinologist. She came back to work at the First Consultant Medical Centre in Lagos when Ebola, a little known virus, was doing the devilish job of killing people when no one truly knew how to deal with that assassin. It was Stella Adadevoh’s lot to deal with Nigeria’s first case of Ebola in July 2014, a Liberian called Patrick Sawyer.

Sawyer was to attend a business conference in Calabar and appeared to have what looked to him like malaria. He was admitted at First Consultant Medical Centre where Adadevoh worked. He said he had a bad case of malaria but Adadevoh knew that he had something worse than malaria and kept him despite the pleading by the Liberian Ambassador in Nigeria that he should be released to go for the conference. She created an isolation centre by raising a wooden barricade outside Sawyer’s door. Her heroic effort saved Nigeria from widespread infection because at that time very little was known about the virus. And to worsen the situation, Nigerian doctors were on strike. It would have been double jeopardy for a country with health infrastructure that was and still is no better than “mere consulting clinics.”

This courageous woman with impeccable professionalism provided the staff with information about the virus, procured protective gear and alerted government officials about the index case. As a result of her report, the Federal Government declared a national public health emergency. The Federal Ministry of Health set up an Ebola Emergency Operations Centre. On October 20, 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Nigeria Ebola-free. But Stella, the saviour of Nigeria’s huge population from what may have been the equivalent of a holocaust was not saved. She died. A heroic death.

Two universities, Baze University and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) have decorated her post-humously with honorary doctorate degrees while several other organisations have festooned her with an assortment of honours. Stella Adadevoh was different, drastically different, from the Stella now on the podium in the United States, Dr Stella Immanuel. This Stella is a Cameroonian who studied medicine at the University of Calabar, South South Nigeria. She later went to the United States to specialise as a paediatrician. She is now an American practising child care medicine in Lousiana, Texas. She is also said to own a church facility called Fire Power Deliverance Ministry. This pastor-paediatrician or paediatrician-pastor, take one, has been on a video trending all over the world claiming that there is a cure for COVID-19. She urged fellow doctors to use hydroxychloroquine plus zinc plus zithromax.

That three-drug combination, she says, will perform wonders for any COVID-19 patient. She says she has used the drug to treat 350 patients in her clinic with no side effects and no fatalities. No one has verified the veracity or otherwise of this information. She has made a confusing situation even more complicated by saying that there is no need to wear face masks or to even be locked-down because hydroxychloroquine is it. This drug belongs to the quine family which includes nivaquine, camoquine and other quines and has been used for ages in treating malaria. Apparently proprietors of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms do not believe her story and have taken down her video for violating their policies on COVID-19.

Their policy is apparently to trust only WHO or certified authorities on the subject of this troublesome virus. But Dr Stella Immanuel is not even an epidemiologist. So does it mean that any doctor can cure any ailment? If the answer is yes, why do we have specialists? That is for scientists to explain. Dr Immanuel is also a pastor who probably believes in miracles. Assuming she has cured 350 people as she claims, did the power to cure them come from medicine or from Immanuel? Immanuel or Emmanuel is the symbolical name of the child announced by Isaiah in Isaiah vii:14 and applied to Jesus as the Messiah, the saviour. Emmanuel (Immanuel) is accepted by Christians as the other name for Jesus of Nazereth. For Dr Immanuel, the question to answer is which one comes first: Science or Scriptures? One thing Dr Immanuel has done is to wake up a sleepy debate about the pandemic and lend fire to it.

President Donald Trump, a real estate merchant, has been mouthing for months the unproven efficacy of hydroxychloroquine against the advice of eminent scientists. He must have misled lots of people including Nigerians on the efficacy of the drug. Dr Immanuel, being a doctor is a dangerous advocate for a drug that has not been manifestly proven to be the cure for COVID-19 and which WHO, the world’s recognised authority on health, has not put its stamp of approval on. Based on her effusions Nigerians have been rushing to buy and stockpile the drug and the merciless medicine merchants, like the merchant of Venice, are exploiting the craze for this uncertain and unproven gamble. President Trump says that he is a big fan of Stella Immanuel because “I am very impressed with her and other doctors that stood with her” at the press conference in Washington DC. The press conference was addressed by a group of medics called America’s Frontline Doctors. Many doctors have disagreed with the pro-hydroxychloroquine activists and have challenged them to prove that it cures the pandemic. My take on it is if hydroxychloroquine is that effective why would Dr Immanuel and her small gang be the only ones who are right and all the best doctors, Nobel Laurettes inclusive, in the world’s best universities wrong.

It cannot be. Some analysts have pointed out the fact that some people have been known to recover from the virus after being treated with hydroxychloroquine. Some doctors have said that is no proof that this drug is the cure but that when used on not-very-old people with high immunity at the early stage of their infection they can survive. That does not mean that that is the cure the world has been waiting for. For me, I stand with the experts and the WHO on this for two reasons: it doesn’t mean that experts are perfect but if experts are not perfect non-experts cannot be perfect.

So I go with the experts for the reason that they have a more intense knowledge of the subject than the rest of us. Secondly, if hydroxychloroquine is the cure why are the pharmaceutical companies and business concerns all over the world not flooding the market with it when they know there is a global market of COVID-19 patients. Let us tell ourselves the truth. Medicine is not jiggery pokery or some kind of voodooism. It is a combination of science, big business and politics. Now with this pandemic all three items are interwoven. All the developed countries are working feverishly to prove that their scientists are the best in the world. When the vaccine is found that group that discovers it, and the countries involved are made. In the United States there will be presidential election in November and Trump is dying to get a second term. He is ready to exploit any and everything including this virus to earn election mileage.

Trump has disagreed with the world on several issues such as NATO, Iran, WHO and climate change even if his opinion runs against the grain. He is a thoroughly self-opinionated leader who thinks that his every word must be law. Infact, he sees himself as a genius even in matters in which he lacks ingenuity. Two The Washington Post journalists, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig have written a book titled, “A very stable genius,” in which they have documented Trump’s vainglorious pursuit of power.

The two Pulitzer prize winners say they wanted to expose “how decision making in Trump’s administration has been driven by one man’s self-centred and unthinking logic.” That one man is Donald Trump a non-doctor, who has now prescribed hydroxychloroquine as the antidote to COVID-19. The good thing is that even if Dr Stella Immanuel is working along with others to shore up Trump’s election chances, Nigerians can feel proud that Dr Immanuel is not a Nigerian. With the suspected four one niner called Hushpuppi cooling his feet in an American prison it would have been easy to say that another Nigerian is taking 419 into the medical field. Thank God Stella Immanuel is not a Nigerian. The other Stella was a Nigerian in whom we were, and are, well pleased.

About the author

Ray Ekpu

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