Hand’s Up!

When AIDS medicine first came out, patients went from near death to looking normal, in months. It was reported: “like Lazarus,” or “the Lazarus effect.” Lazarus is a common name in Ethiopia – Alazar. The name comes from the Hebrew Eleazar – “God is my help.”

I do not have great familiarity with the New Testament, so I had to look up Lazarus this week.

I learned that in John 11, Lazarus of Bethany died, and was raised by Jesus from the dead, after he was entombed for 4 days. In fact, Jesus said: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up.” There is a discussion of death vs natural sleep. Jesus asks that the tomb be opened, and Lazarus, wrapped in what Ethiopians call “abujedi,” walked out. Jesus said “take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Debre is a 19-year old girl from Gondar with neuromuscular scoliosis. She had been walking unassisted, but in the recent year or 2 had lost the ability to walk or to move her arms or feed herself. Others have to feed her and toilet her. We scanned her – both CT and MRI and found nothing surgical which could be corrected. We chose not to operate on her scoliosis.

I considered starting her on AZT (the AIDS drug), on the basis of its effects on P2RX7 receptors, but  AZT has only been studied in Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, and she does not have Duchenne’s (it is a male disease). So I held off.

Debre was staying in Addis Ababa. I told her that we’d get her home to her family by Ethiopian Easter.  Debre wanted to pray before she left. She phoned my former assistant, Kaleab, and asked him to come to pray with her.

Kaleab is a former patient who then joined our staff. He is bright and dedicated to our patients. Kaleab tells me he is deeply committed to Jesus. I like Kaleab a lot, but he is not the first person I’d call if I needed a prayer partner.

Kaleab drove over, opened up the Amharic bible, and they read John 11, the story of Lazarus. Afterwards, Debre fell asleep. 2 hours lter, I was working on her air ticket and phoned to ask her date of birth. They were unable to wake her, and were very concerned that she might have died. After 5 hours, she woke up and began shouting. People rushed in, and she shouted out of tears and smiles: “I can move, I can move.” Debre had not lifted her arms in over a year, and now she could lift them over her head. She had not lifted her legs, and now she could lift them. I examined her – clearly she had new strength.

We reported this to Dr. Boachie, who is strong in his Christian faith. He replied: “Wow great story and testimony. Kaleab may not be a professing Christian, but he took a step of faith, and combined with Debre’s faith, God answered a prayer. It is a sign for Kaleab to know he has a gift and should use it.Many times Jesus said to people including sinners “Your faith has made you well.” There are many such instances in the New Testament.It is really a back to life experience.”

Dr. Kamal Ibrahim of Chicago, a dedicated Coptic Christian, said “Praise the Lord (any Lord according to every faith) – for me I praise Jesus for this miracle.  Rick, you are the miracle doctor and you have strong faith thus God works miracles through you!”

Thanks, but I take no credit here. I asked Kaleab what he thinks. He replied “Jesus did this, all glory belongs to him.”

Debre’s newfound strength is absolutely inexplicable in any medical manner.

She is back in Gondar, doing well. And now when Kaleab drops in, we call him “Aba Kaleab,” “Father Kaleab.” Debre_Hands_Up