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I always leave Addis with mixed feelings. Happiness - having caught up with old friends and made some news ones. Sadness - at all the pain and suffering that never seems to change. Relieved to know that, in less that 24 hours, I will be having my first hot shower in 3 weeks. Physically exhausted from the long hours of operating and the on-call duties combined with preparing and delivering several formal lectures a week.
Today’s entry is about hope. Hope and the Ethiopian spirit. Looking back on my entries for the past week the frustration in them is clear. And I think it is accurate. But, no doubt, it may have caused some of you to wonder why I come over here at all? The answer is easy – it is the people. The people, their hope and their spirit.
Things come to a head on Wednesday. It is our designated operating room day, but because I am operating by myself, it becomes a challenge. Between the language issues and the limited equipment, negotiating the OR becomes a nightmare. They have scheduled me several small cases anticipating difficulty. They underestimated the problem. The first child arrives without any blood crossmatched. Given the size of the procedure and the age of the child significant blood loss is likely.
The frustration has set in. That’s how I know I am feeling better. Last week between the jet lag, the cold and some mild but constant GI symptoms I was quite relieved just to get through the day. This week, I want to work. That’s why I am here, afterall. But it is a constant struggle. Monday it takes the anesthetist 3 hours to get our patient ready so that we can start our case. It is a 15 month-old boy with a bad brain tumor. We operate for 7 hours straight.
It is wedding season in Addis. I guess this makes sense since the wet season is coming to a close and the weather warming up a bit. Today, one of my oldest friends in Addis – Abdissa is getting married and I am invited to join in the celebration. I met Abdissa on my first trip here. At the time he was the director of a small Christian orphanage; he and his 22 children were my surrogate family. No doubt I will write about the amazing kids in a future entry, today is about Abdissa.
It has been a bad 24 hours. Yesterday we had to discharge home several of our spine injury patients - without treatment. After sorting through the bits and pieces instrumentation that has been brought over over the years, there simply wasn’t enough of the same parts to allow us to stablize even a single thoracic or lumbar spine.
I awoke this morning to powerful chanting. That is not unusual. As my hotel is next to a mosque, 3am chanting has become routine for me. This morning was different however. By the time I got down to the hotel lobby the street was full – quite literally – of people praying.
Less than 12 hours on the ground and I am rounding at the hospital with the residents. They are excited. With my subspecialization in spinal surgery they have been saving the toughest cases for me in hopes of learning a few tricks while I am in town. While I am thrilled by their enthusiasm I am secretly scared as they start introducing me to the patients and the enormity of the task at hand.