How Facebook saved a boy’s life

all smilesThank YOU, Mark Zuckerberg! Let me tell you how you are saving the life of Befekadu, a 24 year old Ethiopian orphan.

Befekadu is simply an amazing fellow. He has had a progressive, severe spinal deformity (scoliosis) since he was a small boy. Several doctors told him there was no treatment available.

At the age of 15, when he was in 8th grade, both parents died. This left him as the sole support of his sisters – Lamerot, 8, and Ayalnesh, 6. Befekadu stayed in school, but worked full-time as a timekeeper and storekeeper for a local construction enterprise. Till this day they live in a simple rented house with dirt floors and 2 light bulbs, paying 25 US cents rent per month.

Befekadu graduated in the top 20% of his high school, then moved to Addis Ababa and studied public administration at Addis Ababa University, the Harvard of Ethiopia! And all this time, he has been the sole support of his sisters.

On Jan 30, 2010, Dr. Rick was walking in the street near Addis Ababa university and saw Befekadu walking on the roadside. He saw Befekadu’s spinal deformity and told him “I think I can change your life,” and asked him to join us in clinic. In clinic we diagnosed a spinal angle over 180 degrees, and a 75% reduction in lung function. At the time, we were not yet using long-term traction, and someone else in the room told Befekadu that he was too-far gone for surgery. He did not return for follow-up.

Recently, we found Befekadu’s medical records and realized that he’d be a great candidate for traction. But none of his phone numbers we had were working. What could we do – this was a life-and-death situation. Reading his social history, we noted that he was a university student. We turned to Facebook, and within an hour, had located his Facebook page! We found that Befekadu lives in a town north of Addis Ababa and works in a government transport office. We sent him a message, and within days, he was in our office for reevaluation.

He’ll be departing this summer for Ghana for several months of traction, followed by corrective surgery. He is now busy saving money to support his sisters in his absence from Ethiopia, which could be up to 8 months. And he said to us today “Without Facebook, I’d be without hope.” So, Mark Zuckerberg – thank you for Facebook!

Photos and story used with full permission.

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