Nigeria has been declared Ebola free but the mental scars the Ebola outbreak had left on our psyche is yet to be erased. It was therefore no surprise when the story of the medical doctor who had survived the dreaded disease was widely read on major newspapers and blogs in Nigeria and averaged the highest views in many news websites.
Dr. Ada Igonoh who contracted Ebola from Patrick sawyer, the Liberian-American (the index case) survived alongside eight others in what had been called a medical miracle as Ebola kills nearly 90% of those infected.

Her story details a grim journey through despair, hopelessness and death. The story makes an interesting reading and offers very useful lessons especially to lawyers. They are;

Information is power
Dr. Igonoh’s story chronicles how her knowledge and information on the disease helped her conquer and survive what was obviously a death sentence. She tells of how she had researched on all relevant information on Ebola with her I-pad online, while in the isolation ward with only death, loneliness and hopelessness as constant companions. According to her, she found out that;

“There are five strains of the virus and the deadliest of them is the Zaire strain, … Infected patients who succumb to the disease usually die between 6 to 16 days after the onset of the disease from multiple organ failure and shock caused by dehydration.”

Continuing further, she said;

“My research gave me ammunition. I read that as soon as the virus gets into the body, it begins to replicate really fast. It enters the blood cells, destroys them and uses those same blood cells to aggressively invade other organs where they further multiply. Ideally, the body’s immune system should immediately mount up a response by producing antibodies to fight the virus. If the person is strong enough, and that strength is sustained long enough for the immune system to kill off the viruses, the patient is likely to survive. If the virus replicates faster than the antibodies however, further damage is done to the organs.”

For lawyers who are said to be learned, while other educated folks are informed, this serves as a useful lesson. The saying information is power comes to mind. Law is in the books (including E-books) and nowhere else. Read, study, meditate, research, explore, hunt and search for information. An intelligent lawyer is one who knows what others don’t know or has read what no one else has read. So don’t stop reading.

Positive Mental Attitude
Dr. Igonoh also recalls her strong faith which despite the hopelessness, despair and the feeling of death around her. In her own words;

“As I lay on my bed in that isolation ward, strangely, I did not fear for my life. I was confident that I would leave the ward someday. There was an inner sense of calm. I did not for a second think I would be consumed by the disease.”

She continued,

“There are five strains of the virus and the deadliest of them is the Zaire strain, which was what I had but that did not matter. I believed I would overcome even the deadliest of strains. … I didn’t intend to die in that ward.”

The story of her isolation chronicles a “situation desperate enough to break anyone psychologically”. Death hung in the air like a thick fog and even the strong at heart were not helped by their weary bodies ravaged by the symptoms of Ebola and of course the constant vomiting and stooling. Even when her colleagues succumbed to the disease, her resolve to stay alive was strengthened the more. According to her,

“this was a battle for my life but I was determined I would not die”.

For young lawyers especially, this serves as useful lesson. It is very tough at the beginning with sometimes very little or no pay. However remember the stars of the profession today were minions of yesterday with a similar story like yours. With a strong positive mental attitude, you can weather the storms and challenges of the early years.

Hard Work Pays
Like they say, faith without work is dead. So, work hard and work right, it pays off at the end. Dr. Igonoh’s survival is also tied to her hard work and persistence. She recalls how at the beginning of her isolation period she had been told that 90% of the treatment depended on her drinking at least 4.5 litres of oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace fluids lost in stooling and vomiting. According to her, “I drank the ORS fluid like my life depended on it”.
She also recalls that neither the death of other patients on the same treatment regime nor even when the stooling and vomiting become so intense that she had to subject herself to the indignity of wearing adult diapers, could discourage her from taking the ORS.
Like they say, hard work never kills, it pays. For lawyers it’s a very valuable lesson.

Never Give Up
Yeah! You heard right so keep your head up. If incurable Ebola could be cured, why give upon any situation? Never stop pushing that ground or point of law nobody believes in. Develop, nurture, expand and expound it, it could make its way into the law reports as another novel and ground breaking point.

Dr. Igonoh recalls the one of the grimmest moments in her ordeal and yet her determination to fight on:

“…, I began to notice red rashes on my skin particularly on my arms. I had developed sores all over my mouth. My head was pounding so badly. The sore throat was so severe I could not eat. I took paracetamol for the pain. The ward maid across me wasn’t doing so well. She had stopped speaking. I couldn’t even brush my teeth; the sores in my mouth were so bad. This was a battle for my life but I was determined I would not die”.

I remember an interview with Chief (Dr.) Ejike Ume SAN as an undergraduate, wherein he told me how he had convinced the Supreme Court to nullify a judgment which had been given more than three months after the adoption of final addresses. Reported as Ifezue v. Mbadugha (1984) 15 NSCC 314, he recalled that no one believed his arguments will sway the court as even the Court of Appeal had not been seduced by his arguments.
Not only did the Supreme Court agree with him, the aftershock of that led to the nullification of over 60 judgments nationwide, imposition of sanctions on erring Judges and the promulgation of a decree to stop further nullification of such judgments except where obvious injustice had been done by the delay in delivering judgments. The said decision and decree still live today as judicial precedents and constitutional provisions.

Dr. Igonoh’s story is not without its happy ending as she recalls her victorious departure from the isolation centre after she gallantly crushed Ebola.

“I was led out of the bathroom and straight to the lawn to be united with my family, but first I had to cut the red ribbon that served as a barrier. It was a symbolic expression of my freedom. Everyone cheered and clapped. It was a little but very important ceremony for me. I was free from Ebola! I hugged my family as one who had been liberated after many years of incarceration. I was like someone who had fought death face to face and came back to the land of the living”.

We offer Dr. Ada Igonoh our best wishes and thank her for sharing her story which not only offers a rare insight on how Ebola can be cured but other useful life lessons.