We had been planning this for weeks. And on the last day of 2016, we got 22 Ethiopian kids to Bole Airport at 6:00AM to head to FOCOS Hospital in Accra for traction and surgery. We have been doing this for over a decade. At times everyone shows up on time, and we can check-in on time; other times someone does not show, someone oversleeps, a taxi forgets a pickup, or a mighty rain causes havoc.
This time we were lucky: the weather was cool and pleasant, six kids from far away slept at a site we arranged so that we could get them to the airport, and the rest showed up early. We had a group prayer then headed to check-in. The group was headed by former patient Kaleab, now a JDC staffer. Kaleab made sure that everyone ate and knew how to use the airplane toilet, and the kids loved watching videos en route.
He spent four days introducing them to the hospital and helping to translate for their initial exams.
Then he brought four patients back home to Addis Ababa.
We had not planned a trip to Ghana very soon. But several patients had rod complications and need revision. These complications are quite routine, and we are used to this. But what really scared us is when Mushida, showed up in early January, newly paralyzed. She’s had a bad back for years, and an underlying genetic condition called NF (neurofibromatosis). But when she woke up paralyzed, her family started looking for help. It took a few months for them to find us.
We carried her to into the CAT scan, and observed the real-time reconstructed images of her spine. Mushida has a Z-shaped spine. It comes down on the left side of midline, then becomes level, then continues down on the right side. We call this shape “translocated,” or “gamma.” We have several.
And we have experience with this. Aliyah, our last patient like this, came to us paralyzed, we brought her to FOCOS Hospital in Accra for months of traction, surgery, and therapy, and is now walking. In fact, she came to clinic today for follow-up. So it’s actually possible that Mushida might walk again. There are a few hopeful signs: she has some leg motion, she had brisk reflexes, and she as some feeling in her legs, and she is continent.
There was one other issue though: Mushida comes from a distant area and only speaks the Oromo language. Our staff in Ghana speak several Ethiopian languages, but not Oromo. We checked our records: our patient Mohammed, 18, speaks both Oromo and Amharic, the national language, and he has a passport and was ready to fly. We finished his testing and the group was soon complete. Because of the medical emergency, Dr. Rick flew with them and helped translate as they had their initial exams.
Stay tuned for more updates, and enjoy these remarkable photos!