Patient profile (3/24): Habtamu

Habtamu has spinal cord damage (myelopathy) from his gamma deformity. His neurologic function is getting worse, and he has more difficulty walking. His parents are illiterate farmers in Tilili in Gojjam. A 9th grade student, he needs months of traction and then removal of vertebrae (VCR). He wants to be a nurse.

We recently sent 24 patients to Ghana for life-saving spine surgery, and we need to raise money in order to fund their treatment. Please donate today to help Habtamu!


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Patient profile (2/24): Mekdes

Mekdes is a 17-year-old girl from Butajira who is in the 8th grade. She is in the top of her class and wants to be a nurse. Her dad is a farmer. She has congenital scoliosis with hemivertebrae and rib deformities, and as a result, she has lost 64% of her lung function.

We recently sent 24 patients to Ghana for life-saving spine surgery, and we need to raise money in order to fund their treatment. Please donate today to help Mekdes!

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Patient profile (1/24): Zuber

Zuber is a 15-year-old, Oromo-speaking boy from Welega province. He has moderate scoliosis and increasing incontinence. We hope this will improve after surgery. His dad is a farmer.

He is #1 in his class and wants to be a doctor.

Twenty-four patients sent to Ghana for life-saving spine surgery

Dear Friends:

On December 30, 2017, we sent 24 patients to FOCOS Hospital in Ghana for spine surgery.

We will be posting their individual stories over the next several weeks. Please consider a donation to support their life-saving surgery.

Thank you!


Rick Hodes, MD, MACP
AJJDC Spine and Heart Program, Addis Ababa


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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2017 Annual Report

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Dear Friends and Supporters,

We’re at the end of another amazing year, and we’d like to thank you for all of your incredible support! We simply couldn’t do this work without you. I encourage you to take a look at our 2017 Annual Report, which highlights both our successes and the help we’ll need moving forward.

We’re making one last fundraising push before the end of 2017 to help the 100+ patients we have in line for complex surgery. Please donate to help them.

With appreciation,


Rick Hodes, MD




We can help Solomon walk for the first time!

DSC00242Friends – we need YOUR help to change Solomon’s life.

Solomon had polio as an infant and has always been in a wheelchair. He has a very twisted spine and has lost over half his lung capacity.

Solomon is from a town in S. Gondar called Debre Tabor. He was a solid high school student and has just registered to study computers and database management in college, a good field for someone confined to a wheelchair.

Solomon reports that his classmates were helpful and friendly, and he was never teased. We see amazing kindness here. He is the 4th of 6 kids. His dad is a government worker, and his mom a housewife.

The family assumed there was no treatment, and he never consulted a doctor. However, Solomon’s niece was born with a cleft lip and came to Addis Ababa for surgery. They asked if there is any spine doctor in Ethiopia and were referred to our clinic.

On exam, we were happy to see that while Solomon has the thin legs of a patient who has survived polio, he does have some working muscles, and he’s able to lift 1 leg against gravity and move the other side-to-side.

We immediately saw that this is a kid we can really help. What he needs – and has needed for a decade – is to spend a couple of months in ambulatory traction and then have corrective surgery.

He has good upper body strength and is very flexible, a good sign that his traction will be easy and short – about 2 months – and then have surgery.

Because he has upper arm strength and some leg motion, there is at least a possibility that they can put braces on his legs (making them inflexible) and he could walk for the first time in his life with crutches or with parallel bars. Walking with straight legs and crutches takes a lot of energy, but it may give him mobility which he does not have now.

Certainly, even if he can’t walk after surgery, he will be better because his back will be straight and his lungs expanded.

One of the problems which polio patients face in the second half of their lives is post-polio syndrome which weakens the muscles. If this happens, then having his back straight and lungs expanded may well save his life.

I am excited to be able to send him for surgery. Now we need your help to raise funds for him!

This is a kid whom we can really help and completely turn around his life. Wouldn’t that be amazing – walking upright for the first time at age 18?!

We need your help to send Solomon to FOCOS Hospital in Accra for traction and surgery by the great Dr. Boachie and his team. We need to raise $20,000. Every gift helps, please join in.

All my best,

Rick Hodes, MD, MACP

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