Moges and the Hidden Miracle

Recently a friend said to me: “Rick – there are no coincidences. Instead, there are hidden miracles. It’s really God running the show.”

In 2016, I was in Lalibella, about 400 miles north of Addis Ababa, visiting the rock churches with a visiting delegation. An hour after we arrived, my cell phone rang. Who was calling? A patient named Moges – who lives in Lalibella! Moges had no idea I was nearby.


Moges has been waiting for surgery since 2012. He is a tough case – severe scoliosis – over 180 degrees by some measures, and quite stiff. He had lost 70% of his lung capacity. His remaining lung capacity was .93 liters – that’s less than 3 cans of Coke – at 8,500 feet above sea level. That means he’d need traction for months to help correct this. He had a “tabletop” spine, a term which we have coined to describe our patients with flat backs on top which can hold a pen or glass of water.

“Hay Moges,” I said in Amharic, “Amazingly I’m actually here in Lalibella. Come to the lobby of the Mountain View Hotel at 4PM.” As we drank tea in the lobby, he asked me if there was any hope of him getting surgery.

A member of the delegation, a San Diego woman named Judy, was taken by Moges, his optimism, dignity, and courage, despite a severe deformity. Moges had graduated from university and works for the Ethiopian government. He was the sole support of his family.

She went home and decided to try to raise $22,000 for his surgery. She had some doubts about whether this was possible though. Judy contacted friends and relatives, her community and outsiders.

A few months later I got an email: “Mission accomplished!”

This success reminded me of a quote I use in graduation speeches from St. Francis – “First you do what you must, then you do what you can – and soon, you’re doing the impossible!”

In April 2017, our friend John Ward and I flew Moges and 21 others to FOCOS Hospital in Ghana. We attended an Easter party with him, and I went to a bookstore and purchased 6 books for him to read – “Moges, you’re going to have a lot of time.”

Moges was admitted to FOCOS hospital on the May 9, 2017. He was placed in halo traction for 20 weeks. Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei and team did his surgery in 2 stages. The first surgery was done on October 24th followed by another surgery two weeks later.

He was discharged to JB Guest House on November 30, 2017.

In writing this I came across a quote from Rabbi Menachem Schneerson: “If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that God has left for you to complete.”

Judy did not come to Ethiopia saying “Let me find a kid to help.” But once she ran into Moges, she turned it into an opportunity to save his life. Thanks to these efforts – all spurred by a “coincidental” phone call, Moges now has a new life, with expanded lungs.

I smile as I write this. I await another coincidence as soon as it comes along.

Please support us to continue this work. We can’t thank you enough!

All my best,


Rick Hodes, MD, MACP

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