Please help us save Abdi’s life!

Here is your chance to save the life of an Ethiopian student!


Abdi is a 19-year-old university student, studying mechanical engineering at Welaita University. He is a very good student. And he has overcome a lot to get there.

Abdi comes from an observant Moslem family from the town of Asela. The family speaks Oromo language at home. They fast on Ramadan, celebrate on the holidays, and the boys walk to the local mosque every day.

He has 4 siblings: His older sister Hanan is a teacher, Mustafa works as a welder, and his sister Shekukri is a nursing student, and brother Melkias is in 8th grade.

His dad is a guard at a cow laboratory, and supports the family on $44/month before taxes. They own 1 cow, and do farming, producing 400 kg of barley per year. They live in a rented 3-room mud home with a corrugated aluminum roof (“korkoro” in the local language). Each room has a single dim light bulb. Water and toilet are outside. Their house rent? $3.70. Per year.

Abdi had a tough childhood. As his spine deformed, he was unable to walk on hills or long distances. Local kids would taunt him with the word “gobata,” a strong insult, meaning “hunchback.” Despite this, he was among the top 10 students at high school, and was admitted to a great school – Welaita University where he is a solid student, majoring in mechanical engineering. He gets help from his older sister, who send him $14/month for books and expenses.

All this is remarkable in itself, without a bad back – a boy from a poor family who has done great. But he walked into my office and said “I have a bad back, can you help me?”

We have examined over 3,000 Ethiopians with spinal deformities in the past 13 years, and he is one of the worst. His spine has been deforming since he was young, it is shaped like a saxophone, where T8 is higher than T2. While he is neurologically intact, his spinal deformity is literally crushing his lungs.

We own a breathing machine, and did lung tests – Abdi’s lung function (vital capacity) is 6% predicted. In the photos shown, we have used the CT scan’s “lung window” to show his lungs in blue, and the last slide is the lungs of a healthy 14 year old who had been scanned that day as well, for comparison.

Abdi is breathing with his abdominal muscles, and has no reserve. If he gets pneumonia, he will die. But we have done complex tests, “his heart is normal and the pressure in his lungs is not dangerous (minimal pulmonary hypertension).

Abdi wants to finish school and work as an engineer, marry, and have children. But Abdi’s condition is not sustainable. His only hope? Going to FOCOS Hospital in Ghana and going into ambulatory traction for months, followed by surgery to reshape his spine. There is no guarantee of success, but without this, he is bound to have a much shorter lifespan.

Our challenge: to raise $40,000 to help Abdi get to Ghana for surgery. Please help!

Many thanks,

Dr. Rick Hodes

Story and photos posted with Abdi’s permission

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