Breaking (Great) News from Ethiopia

Earlier today, we put 12 patients, a mom (of a 3 year old with Tetrology of Fallot), and a staff person on the plane, heading to AIMS Amrita Hospital in Cochin, South India,  for heart surgery. Every time we do this and phone patients, we find that a couple of candidates have died while waiting. This happened this year as well.

One of the most touching stories in this group is Almaz, at the right end of the 2nd row from the front. (Her jacket has an S and P on it.) She had been a patient of ours for a year or so, and was not doing well. One day her dad brought her to us and then abandoned her in the streets of Addis Ababa. She was standing in the streets crying, and was taken in by a passer-by. The woman is a normal Addis Ababa woman, not educated, several kids of her own. Almaz moved into her home (which was a lot closer to us than her normal home which was more rural) and continued to come to us for treatment.

We made it a point to include her in this group. However, Almaz had no legal status with this woman or her family, and we could not allow her to sign permission without an Ethiopian court recognizing her as the foster mom. We were planning to go to Almaz’ village to search for her family.

One day, while I was seeing patients in Yekatit 12 Hospital, and I got a call from Sister Tena, my head nurse. “Doctor,” she said, “come back to the Mission, I have a surprise for you.” When I finished that day, I returned to the mission, and found Almaz’ dad waiting to see her. We called Almaz and asked her and her foster mom to show up early the next morning.

Sure enough, Almaz came in and was tearfully reunited with her dad. He had no explanation for abandoning her, and Sister Tena believes that his wife forced him to go into the city to find the daughter. I asked Sister Tena what she would have done under these circumstances. “I’d kill him,” she said. An hour later, the foster mother walked in, and saw Almaz and her dad. “Are you the father,” she asked. He nodded. “Basmam,” she replied strongly, “In the name of G-d.”

We had a long meeting and he agreed that Almaz could stay with the foster mom, and he also signed permission Almaz’s surgery.

Today at the airport, the foster mom was there, crying heavily at Almaz’s departure.

We all prayed together with all the families for success of the surgeries and put them on the plane with time to spare.

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