For Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh and Dr Sheik Umar Khan
The raging fire of the Ebola virus is blazing across the West African subcontinent. In less than three months it has left more than a thousand people dead. It could be set to claim more as panicked governments and citizens of the concerned nations are searching desperately for solutions, yet they are being presented with more puzzles than answers. Ebola it seems has become the angel of death and anyone it visits is surely damned to a slow agonising demise.
Enter Don Quixote de la Mancha, the main fictional character in a book of the same name which has been described as one of the most influential books in modern literature, written by Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish author. Don Quixote is a man who imagined himself to be a knight errant and who sought to revive the practice of chilvary. While most people around Don Quixote in the novel saw him as a delusional man struggling with old age who saw things as they should be, rather than as they are. Chilvary for Don Quixote was not for personal gain, it was a chance to help others and to satisfy a need. Every great inventor, from Da Vinci, to Newton to Edison to Darwin to Einstein was possessed by the Quixotic spirit. When the Wright brothers started drawing their plans for the Aeroplane, people thought they were mad, today we owe our modern conveniences to these people, who had the ability to see things as they were supposed to be rather than as they were
Don Quixote may have been delusional, but his delusions made him see a need, his people’s need for a protector, because they were oblivious to the dangers they face. It is the same spirit that motivate Doctors like Stella Adadevoh and Sheik Umar Khan and other care givers like them who stand at the forefront of the battle against Ebola. When they don their gear and go off to battle against Ebola, the people around them (much like the people of Don Quixote’s era) wonder what kind of drive or madness was making them place themselves in line to die slow, painful and agonizing deaths with only slim hopes of relief or cure. But like Don Quixote they saw a gap, and placed themselves in it. These doctors knew it was either them or the millions of people who were oblivious to the disaster of earth shattering proportions they could face from the deadly Ebola virus. Dr Sheik Khan and Dr Stella Adadevoh knew they were playing a game of Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun. Like Achiles in Homer’s Iliad, they knew it was a war from which they might never return. They knew, like Don Quixote who fought against windmills, that in order to help others one may have to get hurt. For them it was more than the possibility of injury, the spectre of death that loomed was very real. It was not the promise of fame that made them do what they did. it is unlikely that a large percentage of the people they ultimately saved will even know who they are .Given the choice, the two doctors chose to play “chicken” with the grim reaper. It was a game they both ultimately lost, but their stories remain as veritable testimonies of John 15:13.”Greater love hath no man than this,that a man lay his life for his friends” But for Dr Khan and Dr Adadevoh, it was more than a sacrifice for friends. Through their sacrifice millions will be saved, and especially in the case of Dr Umar Khan, the hundreds he tried to treat, will die in the knowledge that someone cared in their dying moments. In a world full of violence and ill will, the sacrifice of these two and other Don Quixotes like them who squared up and still square up against Ebola should light the candle of hope in our hearts.
So friends, Nigerians, Africans, let us not cry because these two gave their lives, let us toast to the spirit of Don Quixote de La Mancha, the spirits which prompts us to look Ebola eyeball to eyeball and say “you shall not defeat us, we shall fight you till we have no blood left in our veins and no breath left in our nostrils.” May the spirit of Don Quixote de la Mancha never die.