Meet Foliyana, confident and successful

Foliyana Daniel Mekonnen is a kind 13 year old girl who arrived at the JDC Ethiopian Spines clinic in October to be seen by Dr. Rick Hodes for a check up.  She had taken a fall at her school and was vomiting. Her parents brought her to be evaluated. Dr. Rick scheduled Foliyana for an MRI to check for any neurologic injuries.

Foliyana is a dwarf.  She stands 97 cm (38”) tall.  When her parents first brought her to the JDC Ethiopian Spine Clinic she was five years old and had a severe kyphosis (spinal deformity) which measured more than 50 degrees.  (A normal back should not have any degree of deformity.) At the time, her parents reported that Foliyana suffered from shortness of breath, excessive sweating and frequent vomiting.  Dr. Rick described her back condition as severe, probably life threatening with the curve of her spine compressing her lungs, heart and internal organs. At age six, without her parents she traveled to the FOCOS Hospital in Accra, Ghana where she underwent spine surgery to straighten her back.  She spent 3 ½ months at FOCOS, and returned with her back straightened.  

Dr. Rick commented that among the reasons he thought Foliyana would do well after surgery was because she has a very strong family support system.  Her father, Daniel Mekonnen is the school principal at Bole Preparatory School in Addis Ababa. Her mother is an Amharic teacher at Kokebe Tsibah school, also in Addis Ababa.  Foliyana is the youngest of three children. Her older brother and sister are now university students.

While Foliyana was shy during her visit to the JDC Ethiopian Spine clinic, her parents report that she is a popular and confident young woman.  She has many friends and is comfortable with her height and her friends accept her as she is. She is in the 6th grade at Abune Gorgorious School in Addis Ababa where she has been elected class representative at her church school.  Her parents report that her GPA last year was 95% and she has artistic ability. When asked, Foliyana said she wants to become either a doctor or a designer when she becomes an adult.

We showed Foliyana an ABC television video of Dr. Michael Ain, a dwarf from New York, who has become a noted spine surgeon.  For this girl, who could have easily died of lung failure, her future looks bright. She and her family are delighted to see that her height and spine are not a limit.