Selamawit Fentahun, a recent patient, and her mom came by to drop off a wonderful “Thankew” letter! Photos and letter shown with permission.
We’ve had a dozen patients in Cochin, India for heart surgery (see previous posts). Yesterday 7 patients and a mom returned. All are healing well, walking slowly, and delighted to be back.
Here’s a group photo (below), as well as a picture of Betelhem (pink jacket) who had surgery for tetrology of Fallot, and Danawit (traditional white dress) who had Ebstein’s anomaly.
The rest of the group should return next week.
Warm greetings from Addis Ababa!
Dr. Rick Hodes
Today I walked into “the theatre” as they call it here in Cochin – in the US we’d say “operating room,” to see Almaz’s chest cracked open and a fine team of surgeons working to replace her mitral valve. This evening after dinner you can see her in the ICU, doing well.
11 surgeries or procedures now complete, 1 procedure needs to be followed by a surgery in the coming weeks or months, 1 patient was found to have a complex problem better treated without surgery at this moment, but he too is feeling a lot better now.
The gratitude is tremendous – patients trying to kiss my feet in thanks (Ethiopian culture does that), and the hospital staff who thank me for allowing them to help these people. A consultant neurologist teared up when she was taking a history and one of our girls said she’s an orphan living in a mission facility. They also love Berhanu, our JDC staff person who is here for the 4th time and who sleeps on a cot in a room with several patients every night to translate.
Berhanu discovered an Ethiopian Somali medical student here, and Abdi has been helpful volunteering with our patients as well.
4 or 5 patients will leave the hospital tomorrow, and we hope to get them back to Addis Ababa in a week or 2.
Chag Someach from Cochin!
– Dr. Rick Hodes
I’m currently visiting our heart patients here. Today I spent hour with them, with their surgeons, and with Dr. Krishna Kumar, a Harvard-trained pediatric cardiologist who is chief of the department here.
Dr. Krishna thanked me for allowing them to help. This is a Hindu charity hospital, and the whole place is motivated by the concept of service to others. “Rick,” he said, “it is a real honor to help these people who all would have died without proper care and proper surgery.”
The patients are all doing well. The last surgery was completed today, and all are healing.
Dr. Krishna commented to me: “My only complaint is that they never complain; they’re so easy as patients that sometimes they don’t express their discomfort.
We look forward to their return to Ethiopia.
– Dr. Rick Hodes
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.