On a recent trip to Atlanta, Dr. Rick reunited with former patient
Mesfin, now a respiratory therapist at a hospital there.
When he was in high school, he wrote the following essay, titled
“Where I am in Life”:
It seems I have already lived my entire life. I was born happy like
anybody else, with a large family, the fourth of thirteen brothers and
sisters. I was born in southern Ethiopia in a small village without
electricity or automobiles but we never lacked for love or family
closeness. We were happy with what we had. I could have lived my
entire life in that naturally beautiful village, but I became
dreadfully sick and my life took a different course.
An unexpected complication from a sore throat caused an infection to
my heart and it began to fail. I used to walk four hours a day back
and forth to my school, but I became so weak that I could not even
walk across the room, I could never get to sleep, everyday I coughed,
and was short of breath. It became increasingly difficult to perform
simple daily tasks.
In my village my relatives tried tribal medicine continuously for
three years until I met my medical doctor. By then I was at the point
of death and I was praying to be delivered from my suffering. I was
not afraid to die, for I had lost my hope to live. Struggling to
breathe, it felt like I was drowning all the time. I gave up hope but
my parents never did. They were sure I would live and yet they didn’t
know how. I guess that is what you call faith. It’s their greatest
gift to me.
At fourteen I suddenly decided that I was a burden to my family,
because they stayed up every night with me as I struggled to breathe.
When I hurt, they hurt. I felt my family was dying with me. Then I
made a hard decision: to die alone. Then I left the village to go to
Mother Theresa Mission, a place for people to die. After long journey
from my village to the capital of Ethiopia with the help of many
people, I was able to make it into the city. While I was at the
mission I met this man whom I called “my angel:” his real name is Dr.
Rick Hodes. He come to the mission as a volunteer and met me. After
he checked my situation he knew that I had only a 25% chance of
surviving and that I must have heart surgery as soon as possible in
order to live.
Dr. Rick knew that there were no heart surgeons in Ethiopia. He had
to find a surgeon in the United States who would help me. He
contacted many hospitals and finally I was accepted in Atlanta,
through Children’s Cross Connection Organization (CCCO) and my great
American family that I am still living with. CCCO paid for every
necessity and brought me here.
Then after my arrival in Atlanta I stayed for a couple of weeks with
my host family. My doctors decided to operate on me and I had my
first surgery performed. Thus they repaired my
valve. Afterward I had to stay again with my host family for more
than two months in order to recover from my surgery. In order to
prevent serious heart infection they pulled out my wisdom teeth. They
gave them to me. In my culture it is the custom that when your teeth
are removed they should be cast in the exact place of your birth.
But I decided I loved America and its people so much that I would give
my teeth to my second birthplace, America.
After every thing was completed, I returned to Ethiopia. I
was so happy, and thankful to the Lord and the people that helped me.
It wasn’t over yet, very unexpectedly my mouth became infected. The
infection spread to my heart, and before I knew it I was dying again. My
“angel”, Rick, came to my rescue again and arranged the flight back to
America. The ambulance took me to the emergency room, but I can’t
remember it at all. They repeated the heart surgery by replacing my
heart valve and after that I was given a new American family. My
American dad just happened to be my cardiologist! My new mom is a
nurse and I have four new brothers and four new sisters.
See, I already have lived my entire life. However, “In the middle of
trouble lies a good opportunity.” I was blessed with a second life
to live, to grow, to go to school, to be happy with my American family
and great Samaritan people. I love my family and friends as well as
the country. Again and again, I say, “God Bless America!”
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