Monday, August 23, 2010

50th Wedding Anniversary, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, August 7, 2010

August 7, 1960, fifty years ago, on a hot August afternoon in Gainesville, we were married in the Baptist Student Union on the campus of the University of Florida. Following the reception, and with a cowbell locked around Don’s leg, (thanks to Don’s fraternity brothers!), we drove off in our gray and white 1956 Chevrolet to begin our journey of married life.
    We are quite sure we never dreamed we would be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our journey together has had many unexpected and surprising events and experiences we never dreamed we would have. Most of those have been joyous ones.
    Along the way God blessed us with four wonderful children and one grandchild. We couldn’t ask for them to be any more supportive of our journey here in Addis and at MCM. They think it is “kind of neat” to have parents our age off in a far distant country, and they proudly share with friends and colleagues where we are and what we are doing. Perhaps they are just happy to have us over 8,000 miles away so they don’t have to listen to any well-meaning advice from us!
    For some 40 years we have had the privilege for Don to work in hospitals in a number of developing countries. These were always short-term stays as he could not be away from his practice for long periods of time. All our children have been with us on some of these trips, and on our 25th wedding anniversary we celebrated with all of them in Bangalore, India, where Don was working in the Bangalore Baptist Hospital and the kids and I were involved in other projects.  Our children say that making these trips with us was the greatest gift we could give them.
    The longer we live, the more we realize that life is a gift and each day an opportunity. We are grateful for this precious God-given gift and pray that we will continue to live in its wonder and mystery.
    Along with this thought is recognizing the joy of sharing life together. Our journey of 50 years has been filled with great high moments and also some deep valleys. Few of us escape the days that can sometimes be dark. We believe, through the struggles and difficulties, we have all learned priceless lessons we would have learned in no other way. We have become as Henri Nouwen says, “Wounded Healers.” We have greater understanding, compassion, and empathy for others and have drawn closer as a family because of the times of pain.
    The journey has helped us realize how important relationships are in our lives. First, for us, is our relationship to God, and then, the love between us as husband and wife, spreading to our children, family, friends, and co-workers. We need to continue to nurture these relationships.
    We missed having our children with us to celebrate this special occasion, but our friends here came together to honor us with a lovely dinner party. We were overwhelmed at the love that evidently went into each detail of this wonderful event. The Korean pastor’s wife is a “balloon artist” and had creative art from the entrance to the apartments, down the hallways, on the ceiling and walls, climaxing with almost life-sized replicas of us, complete with a bridal veil. The food, Korean and Ethiopian, under the direction of our dining room manager, was both delicious and beautiful. Mr. and Mrs. Kim very ably arranged all the details, even to placing a floppy hat, something like a sombrero, on Don’s head, along with a shawl around his neck, and then to the strains of the wedding march we were to enter the festive room.
    Arrangements of roses were everywhere. Several of them contained at least 50 roses or more in each bouquet. We had a cake from the Sheraton Hotel, and all the surgeons in the room were invited along with us, to make the first cut.
    The event was an international affair with guests from Korea, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, and a few from America. Perhaps it was fitting for us to celebrate with these friends as evidence of the universality of God’s love as it extends to the whole world. We were grateful to all these dear ones who attended and who worked hard to make our 50th wedding anniversary a memorable and unforgettable occasion.
    We do not know what lies ahead, but for now we feel we are where God placed us and are eternally grateful for this opportunity. Before we left our home in Orlando, Florida for our journey of 8,000 miles, some verses from Psalm 139 seemed to express God’s care for us as we began a new chapter.  Inserting “us or we” in place of the “I or me”, the verses would read, “O Lord, you have searched us and know us. If we rise on the wings of the dawn, or settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide us, your right hand will hold us fast.”
    God’s abiding presence has been with us and is ever there each mile of the journey and will be for the road ahead. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Barbara

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ginchi Church

Mr. Kim asked us to go with them to a church dedication on Sunday afternoon. We drove for 2 hours west of the city through beautiful rolling hills till we arrived at this rural area. It was overcast and sprinkling. We had to traverse a path of stones. They were embedded in gray sticky mud and were as slippery as oil on glass. Many people had turned out for this occasion, and, of course, they asked me to be part of the ribbon cutting team of dignitaries. Following the cutting, we all entered the church. Naturally, they placed Barbara and me on the front row, while the speakers were ushered to the platform.
    A young missionary from Korea had secured this property some 4-5 years prior, and the Myun-Sung missionaries had supported it over the developing years, culminating in this beautiful church dedication today. Some 300 to 400 people packed into the building, filling it to capacity. The preachers preached and the singers sang. The children’s choir was a special feature, and Barbara was “up close and personal” on the front row. They were so proud of this accomplishment. It was a great time of celebration. We were honored to be a part of the festivities. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don

Saturday, July 31, 2010

World Cup

There was great interest in the world cup held in South Africa. Our school teacher friend Seppo Pandeho completed an adventure single handedly. He took local buses through Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, to South Africa and then spent two weeks returning. We’ll post more when his documentary is ready. We lost contact with him for two weeks and had prayer groups around the world praying, as well as the Finnish Embassy in Johannesburg searching for him. He was returned safely to his family and we all were relieved.

    Alexander Kiplisund, a young teenage Norwegian student, challenged me to a “Coke Challenge” on the cup finals. He chose Spain (I think he had some inside skinny), and I chose the Netherlands. Since Spain won the world cup, I had to pay up. The next day he just showed up out of nowhere to claim his prize. I haven’t heard from him since. That’s the way those guys are you know. They take you to the cleaners and then skip town!
-- Don

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fourth of July

A highlight of our return was celebrating the Fourth of July. We brought some patriotic decorations, which we had on our front door and on our table as a centerpiece. We also brought stars and stripes paper plates, and napkins back with us. Don bought real Frankfurters in the airport grocery store at the Frankfort airport. We had thirteen guests with us on the night of the 4th, serving our German hot dogs, hamburgers, sauerkraut (couldn’t believe we found a can), baked beans (with a bit of improvisation), pasta salad, a 22-pound watermelon that Phil bought, and two desserts from the Sheraton Hotel, which the guys contributed. It was a special evening as we expats shared together the birthday of our wonderful country. For some, it was their first time away from the United States on July 4. We sang "God Bless America," and I know of at least one set of eyes that had a few tears. Several of our guests said they would never forget this particular celebration as we were bonded together in a foreign land.
    Ted and Phil have accomplished culinary skills, and we all enjoyed their surgical talents in the kitchen. Scott and I have accomplished eating skills. We watched. It was great fun preparing to have guests over for this special occasion. The Park family joined us as well as  Stephanie, Rick Hodes, and Richard Usatine, an academic dermatologist from the University of Texas, and Mr. Kim was our honorary American. 
Rick mesmerized the medical folks with his prodigious cases captured on his computer, and Richard did consults and eagerly joined in the festivities. There is nothing quite like celebrating the birth of our country abroad with other Americans. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Barb & Don

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kee Park Family/CHET DOL

Kee and his family came as returning volunteers. He is a neurosurgeon and does volunteer work around the world and has been here several times working with the residency program. Kee comes from a medical family and grew up in New Jersey. As a Korean-American he speaks fluent Korean, as does his lovely wife Susan, who grew up in Philadelphia. Sophie is 12, Camille is 10 and Isabelle celebrated her first birthday with us. This is a beautiful family and they won the hearts of everyone. They are special friends to Barbara and me, and we’re anxious for them to come back for a longer assignment. Kee, Phil, and Ted are all spine surgeons and rendered a lot of teaching to the neurosurgical residents. Kee also did extensive brain surgery. He was a busy boy.
    Korean tradition has it that the first-year birthday (called the CHET DOL) is worthy of a big celebration, at which time the future profession of the child is predicted. Guests come with gifts to honor the child. The young Koreans here made arrangements at the Rainbow Korean Restaurant on the other side of town for the event, where approximately 50 attended. A wonderful buffet meal and music and song by the young Koreans preceded the celebrated ceremony. An array of items was placed on the table and the item she would choose would predict what she will be when she grows up: a spool of thread (seamstress/tailor), pencils (a scholar), microphone (a singer), a Bible (a preacher), stethoscope (a physician), money (a rich investor). Traditional Korean dress was called for. So they dressed Isabelle in the traditional Korean dress with bonnet and held her close to the presented items. With a lot of cheering from the audience and several attempted reaches by Isabelle, she chose the pencils. She follows her sisters, Sophie and Camille, who had chosen the pencils at their Chet Dol. It looks like we’re going to have a lot of intellectual ladies in the future. It was a special evening and we felt honored to be included in their celebration.
    Their trip was cut short when Camille became ill and had to be air-evacuated home for evaluation. The report is that she is doing well, and the prognosis is good. We are all relieved and look forward to their next visit. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don

Phil, Ted, and Scott

On July 1st two Orthopaedic Spine Surgeons, Dr. Phillip Meinhardt and Dr. Ted Belanger, and an Othopaedic Distributor, Scott Winn, arrived. What a wonderful boost they were. They all worked extremely hard and provided wonderful medical care to patients who were in need of spine surgeries.  Scott offered invaluable assistance as he inventoried orthopaedic equipment and supplies that were here, having been brought in by volunteers. This was a much needed help so the Orthopaedic physicians can know what equipment is on hand and then have it available when in surgery. This is a major problem in working with donated mismatched supplies. The result is that at the time of surgery they are not available, and this is a great loss for the patient and the surgeon. Scott’s contribution in organizing equipment was greatly appreciated. Many, many thanks Scott.
    Our guests from America have a great sense of humor and adventure. They were all willing to venture out, seeing the city, eating new foods, and giving us some hours of fun. In a span of about eight days we either ate out in a restaurant or hosted at  home every night but one.  We have never had such a full social calendar. I think the Orthopaedic volunteers never dreamed they would have so many dining invitations, expecting to lose weight while here, but probably picked up a pound or two. They all want to return. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don

Sunday, July 25, 2010


In June, we were delighted that Stephanie Dietz, a rising senior at the University of Miami, came to spend a month at the hospital. She plans to attend medical school after graduation and wanted to "shadow" Don. She has been a huge help to Don, and I think is having some great experiences as she spends time in the clinics and in the O.R.  She is seeing patients with medical issues that she may never see in the states. We have kept her busy both with work and trying to see that she participates in the social and cultural life of this great city.
-- Barb

Stephanie has a priceless "can do" attitude. Along with an inquisitive mind, she has endeared herself to everyone, and has been embraced by the Ethiopian and Korean staff as a colleague. She has participated in morning conferences, grand rounds, ward rounds, clinics in the outpatient department, surgery, c-arm technician, completed a research database, and spent time with Dr. Rick Hodes at Mother Teresa’s rehab center. She has ably functioned at a level beyond her years of training.  She will have a bright future in medicine (Orthopaedics, of course).
Many thanks for your help this summer Stephanie. We all will miss you and wish you the best. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don

Monday, April 26, 2010

Health Exhibition

This past weekend there was a Health Exhibition at the Expo center located off Meskel Square. Since there are no street names or numbers, I elected to ride with the MCM shuttle. Otherwise I might still be riding around looking for the Expo. There was a large turnout and MCM presented itself well. Dr. Einar and I went visiting other booths, making new friends, and sharing our experiences and plans with each other.  The Koreans and Ethiopians were very professional, and I was proud to be a part of this group. My non-biased opinion was that our booth was the best. The fellowship was a bonus. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don


Saturday night I saw a consult in our emergency room: Karen, a 29 year-old Belgian lady touring with friends in Northern Ethiopia on a bus at night when the driver lost control. It was in an isolated area and was some time before the accident was discovered. The driver was killed, many people injured and my patient suffered a concussion, fractured R femur and multiple trauma. They were eventually taken to a local hospital and spent several days at that facility and then came by vehicle to Addis Ababa, and our ER. Karen was a very sick trauma patient, and we operated on her leg 11 April. Her recovery was slow but she never complained. Her dad, Oswald, flew in from Brussels and was a great help, as was her local friend Karim.
    Barbara had her dad over several times for food and friendship and encouragement and a number of outings in the city for food and drink. The volcanic ash problem in Europe aborted any attempt for medical evacuation and when seats were obtained it was a joyous occasion celebrated in her room before departure.

    Nationalities in the group photo: Belgian, French, Ethiopian, American, Korean, Norwegian! All these nationalities helping one special lady and her dad!

-- Don

Lemlem and Fikru

One of the joys of living in Addis Ababa, is the new and old friends that are a part of our lives. Lemlem (pronounced LumLum) is a wonderful young lady, who, with her husband, visited us in Orlando last year. She and Barbara go out each week shopping and have lunch together. Her mother, Martha, invited us to her home last Sunday for lunch, and, along with a family friend, Meseret (who is a caterer), prepared the meal for us. It was a wonderful Ethiopian meal with many dishes and even French fries for me. Of course they cut way back on the spices for us wimpy Westerners! Lemlem’s sisters (Meselale, Hiwot, Theseat) all pitched in. Lemlem’s brother is getting married in several weeks in Awassa, and Martha modeled her dresses for the occasion.
    All of this was followed by the traditional coffee ceremony. The dishes were cleared from the table and a specially designed, low table was brought in with tiny coffee cups placed on top. One of Lemlem’s sisters brought in a brazier containing burning charcoal, placed it on the living room floor, and began the process of roasting the coffee beans. The green coffee beans were placed in a long handled pan with holes in the bottom. The young lady worked diligently to fan the coals, which generated much smoke.  At the same time she continuously shook the pan back and forth across the top of the brazier. The husks from the coffee began to fall onto the floor. This first part took about 30 minutes, and when the coffee beans had turned brown, she then walked around the room to show each of us the results of her labor and for us to catch the tantalizing aroma of the freshly roasted coffee. The beans were taken to the kitchen to be ground, and then the traditional pot of water was brought out and placed over the coals to reach the desired temperature. When the water was hot enough, some of the freshly ground coffee was put into the pot of water, and the coffee was then ready to be served.  Warm popcorn served in a large tray was brought in and passed to each of us. Popcorn is traditionally served at a coffee ceremony. Participating in this Ethiopian ritual made for a very special ending to a lovely afternoon.

Fikru is a young Ethiopian artist friend of Jeff (our son). Jeff introduced us several years ago, and we have one of his paintings in our family room in Orlando. His work is abstract, and he has been quite successful in Europe. We have acquired and are enjoying several more paintings for our apartment in Addis. His wife Josephine is French with a PhD in archeology. They live six months of the year in Paris and six months in Addis Ababa. We visited his Addis studio at his home where he grew up in the Sidesk Kilo area. His mom and dad are warm and sweet folks. We have discovered that  his dad is very photogenic. My photography doesn’t do him justice.
    Fikru is busy preparing to join Josephine at their home in Paris for the next six months. They are building their dream home here, so I suspect they may be back sooner than later! (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don

How did I get here?

Our first week back in Addis proved to be an exciting one. On Monday of that week, Mr. Kim, the General Manager of the hospital, told us we were to be ready on Wednesday at 9:15 AM for an appointment  with His Excellency, the Honorable President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, President of Ethiopia. Whoa!! Back in February I was asked to rewrite a letter to the president, requesting he write a foreword to the thirtieth anniversary memory book of the Myungsung Presbyterian Church in Seoul, Korea, the sponsoring church of the Myungsung Christian Medical Center here in Addis. Little did I know then that Mr. and Mrs. Kim would hand deliver that letter to the President.
    On Tuesday evening we were alerted that plans had changed and we were now to be ready to leave at 4:00 PM. We had errands to run that day, but planned to be back with ample time to carefully dress for our first ever appointment with a President of a country. We were returning to the hospital and at 2:30 were almost back when Don received a phone call from Mr. Kim with another change of plans. We were now to be ready to leave at 3:00 PM. So much for leisurely getting ready for this very important visit!
    Thankfully, I had already chosen what to wear. In the rush of getting ready, I pulled the hem thread so that more than half the hem of my skirt was now hanging down. Fortunately, I had safety pins. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself thinking, “Here I go to see the President with five safety pins holding up my hem.” I had forgotten my jacket had a three-quarter sleeve length and the blouse sleeve came to the wrist. I pushed the sleeves up hoping they would stay in place and not work their way out from under the jacket. My hair was standing on end from being out in the wind and my nail polish was chipped. Nothing to do, but go feeling not quite put together as I had planned for our first ever presidential visit.
    We have driven by the highly guarded grounds of the palace many, many times. It covers acres and acres and the foliage is so dense one cannot see the palace. Absolutely no photographs are allowed to be taken from the street and the area is not open for public tours. We entered through a gate in the high walled fence into this seemingly forbidden palace. It was almost too much to take in.  A pastor Mr. Kim knows, is also an aide to the President. He was waiting for us just inside the gate. We were asked to step outside our vehicle, and Mr. Kim and Don were taken to one guard house and Mrs. Kim and I to another.  Our purses were thoroughly searched and anything that was considered questionable was removed and stored in a locker. I decided if we ever returned here I would bring almost nothing with me.
    We were escorted up the winding driveway to a gigantic and imposing building, truly a palace. On either side of the entrance steps are colossal statues, which I recognized as David. One statue features David holding a lamb in one hand and a staff in the other. The opposite statue has David playing a flute and a lamb lying at his feet. The Star of David is symbolic in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Some of the carpets in the palace feature the Star of David woven into the pattern.
    After going through more security we were ushered into a foyer with ceilings that must reach to heaven. Greeting the guests on arrival is a huge tiger skin rug with a very big mouth, opened wide and baring his teeth. To our left was the reception hall, another enormous room with sitting areas leading to the far end where there is a very high backed chair, looking somewhat like a throne, on which the President sits to receive guests on special occasions. One wall featured a very large tapestry of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, two very important figures in the Ethiopian Orthodox church.
    We were led into a very beautiful side room off the foyer, and it was about then that my emotions were getting the better of me. Don and I were invited to sign a thick guest book that looked like it had been in use for quite some time. The book contained the names of kings, queens, presidents, heads of state, ambassadors and other important dignitaries. Don and I were now adding our name to this impressive list of guests. I was overcome and said to Don, “How did I get here? I am a country girl from Hampton, Florida.”
    We were to wait in this lovely room until the President was ready to see us. The pastor, who is an aide, stayed with us and made us feel very much at ease. Mr. and Mrs. Kim had recently been to a dinner at the palace, so this was nothing new for them. After about twenty minutes we were taken to His Excellency’s office. Very large curtained, French doors opened into his private office, which like everything else we had seen, was gigantic. President Giorgis was seated behind a beautifully carved desk, and as we were introduced he extended his hand to us in greeting. We were then invited to sit around a lovely, low table, which had a top fashioned of a rich burl, with the patina of fine old wood. We were told the base was carved from one piece of wood. After some conversation, three men in formal attire came bearing a tray of exquisite bone china cups, with wide gold bands around the tops. We were offered coffee or tea from lovely silver pots, and a tray of cookies was then brought and passed around.
    Mr. Kim asked that during our visit Don speak to the President of the continuing vision of the Korean hospital and its goal of improving medical care, specifically in the area of Orthopaedics. Don spoke of the effort of MCM hospital to partner with Black Lion, the government hospital, in establishing a residency program, training young Ethiopian doctors who will be able to bring quality Orthopaedic care to the people of Ethiopia. He did a very good job relating this information and I think the President is grateful for MCM and its ministry.
    We found the President to be extremely charming and gracious, probably knowing more about American history than we do. He has spent some time in the states. He is a devotee of Thomas Jefferson, having visited Monticello ten times! On a visit to Texas, the governor gave him a Stetson hat and a pair of boots, which I understand he wears quite frequently. He autographed a picture for us, in which he is wearing his Stetson.
    After an hour long visit we determined it was time to go, but before we left, Mr. Kim requested we be allowed to visit the lion cage. We walked up a short distance from the palace where two very large Abyssinian or black lions were lying. This species of lion has a beautiful, black-tipped mane. We found them sleeping, but they awakened as we approached, looked at us, and opened their enormous mouths, not to roar, but to yawn. We were told these lions are descendants from the family of lions that were kept by Emperor Haile Selassee.
    The office of the President is largely symbolic, but yet extremely important. He attends to state business, receives many heads of states and is often seen at important functions. He is elected by Parliament. The power of the nation rests largely in the office of Prime Minister. National elections will be held this year on May 23, and the incumbent Prime Minister will once again be seeking office.
    It was an incredible experience and hard not to be awed by the surroundings of the palace and by His Excellency, the Honorable President Grima Wolde-Giorgis, and the position he holds. It is my guess the President is a very approachable official, but nevertheless, the question remained with me, “How did I get here?”

-- Barb

Return to Addis

We arrived back in Addis on the evening of April 3, the night before Easter Sunday. What a wonderful welcome from six of our friends and a driver! We retrieved our bags and with the help of a friend sailed through customs with no problems. This doesn’t always happen so we felt very fortunate.
    Mr. Kim is a New York Yankees fan. He was happy to receive some softball equipment I bought at a second-hand store in Orlando.
    Our friends, Dr. John and Suzy Heinbockle, and their children Lewis and Rachel, arrived a few hours after we did. Don and I finally got into bed about 2:00 AM. We all were up on Sunday morning in time to attend the Easter service at the International Evangelical Church. We took the Heinbockles to the Hilton for a lovely poolside, Easter Brunch, and were entertained by traditional Ethiopian music and dance. We made a short grocery store run and then returned to our apartments to crash.
    Suzy and children stayed a week and then went back to the States for the kids to begin school following their spring break. John stayed on another week, working in the hospital. John renewed friendship with Dr. Laura Fitzpatrick at a dinner at Antica restaurant and did some work with her project of training nurse anesthetists. We enjoyed having John around, eating meals with us, and relating the day’s happenings. He was a tremendous help to Don, not only in the operating room, but in helping to sort and inventory Orthopaedic  equipment and instruments that were stored away in a warehouse.
    We had a very busy first week back in Addis. Between our schedules and the Heinbockle visit, we were able to transition back into life here. We had a wonderful few weeks in Orlando seeing our family and friends, but each time we leave it is very hard to say goodbye. However, we do love being in Addis and were happy to return to work and our friends here who make us feel such a part of the community. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Barb

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Al and Shari Newman from Portland, Oregon, spent two weeks with us.  Al is in a large orthopaedic group in Oregon and formerly headed up a sports medicine department at Utah.  Shari is in real estate and is an accomplished photographer. There was no shortage of subject matter around this place!  Al served us well with his expertise in general orthopaedics and was able to do our first arthroscopy of the knee. Al helped us with our new Sign nails, as well as with out- patient care. He also brought us some much needed arthroscopy equipment. They got around the town exploring and out of the city to see some historic sites. We all enjoyed having them with us and their contribution to MCM, and we look forward to their return to our campus in the future.
    Josh Langford and Brad Cantrell, his brother-in-law, arrived February 10. Josh is a young trauma surgeon from Orlando, Florida. He does a lot of pelvic and acetabular fractures and does a great deal of work in limb salvage. We had a case waiting for him. The patient had a road trauma accident a year ago and was advised amputation. He refused and after long surgeries and skin grafting, Josh did a bone transport using Taylor frames. He also helped with some other complicated cases salvaging the extremity as well as general trauma. When he wasn’t working, the Norwegian neurosurgeons took them mountain climbing. It took him 3 days to recover! Brad attends the University of North Florida and enjoys astronomy. I learned about a lot of things over my head I never dreamed about!
    The day after Josh and Brad arrived, Stan Topple and his wife Mia arrived from North Carolina. Their plane was to arrive from Istanbul, at 1:30 AM but was delayed till 3:30 (I slept in the car in the parking lot!). At this point we had four American Orthopaedic Surgeons on campus at one time. It was a historic moment.
    Stan was a missionary orthopaedic surgeon to South Korea for 22 years. He met Mia there as she was a missionary dermatologist from Norway. He says that together they are “skin and bones!" They are fluent in Korean, which thrills the Korean staff. They also spent many years in Kenya, serving Eastern Africa. Stan’s extensive experience, wisdom and gentle manner have been an inspiration to us. We would like to keep them, but they are headed to Australia before returning to Montreat, NC.
    Al and Shari, Josh and Brad, and Stan and Mia have been an enormous boost to the orthopaedic project at MCM. Before them Em and Glen Barden endeared themselves to us here. All in all we have made some significant strides in this short time. They all visited and lectured the staff and residents at Black Lion. They helped establish a meaningful line of communication with Dr. Woubellem and her staff at Black Lion. As a result of these combined efforts we will be a part of the University of Addis Ababa teaching program of orthopaedic residents and will have the residents on site this spring.
    Our new CT scanner was installed and inaugurated this week as well as our new C-arm in the OR. Construction has started on the new intensive care unit. We have been given the go-ahead for a dedicated orthopaedic suite with staff  in the surgical theater! Trauma patients will no longer be delayed. Each of the visiting consultants has had a part in these noteworthy changes. Many, many thank--now you must consider a longer commitment to teach these young Ethiopians.
    Dr. Dan Vestal (Coordinator Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) and Becky Smith (consultant) are in country now with David Harding, Ben and Kelly Taylor of Water is Life's well-drilling project--to bring clean potable water to under-served areas. They have spent several days with us and explored developing relationships in  the U.S. to further our orthopaedic project. They will return to Addis Ababa to wrap up their visit.
    We moved into our new apartment several weeks ago. The building is new and there are a lot of rough spots that had to be resolved (no power, no water, no internet, plumbing leaks). The internet has been down 80-90% of the time and this makes communicating difficult. However, slowly most of these things are being resolved and Barbara is enjoying a complete kitchen. Of course we brought her little Italian oven with us from the old guest house and she’s happy about that. Decorating and getting new furniture has been fun as well as time consuming.
    Barbara and I leave next Saturday morning (2:30 AM) for the states. I will attend the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting in New Orleans, and do some chores at home before returning to Addis Ababa, around the first of April.
    (See slideshow in the sidebar. Also, see the Links section near the bottom of the sidebar.)

-- Don

Monday, January 25, 2010

Follow-up on Child with Ischemic Contracture (Jan. 13 Post)

Dr. Barden operated on the little girl's arm, releasing the scar tissue. She now has much improved position of her hand and fingers. As healing occurs, she will then be able to stretch her hand, and we anticipate almost normal range of motion.

-- Don

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Em & Glen Barden

Em and Glen Barden left on KLM for Amsterdam last night. They should be in the states heading to their home in Lakeland, Florida, as I write. They spent two weeks with us here in Addis Ababa at the Korean hospital. Glen is a hand surgeon, and it took a week before we got into any hand surgery, but when we did Glen did some fine stuff. Unexpectedly the first week was a course for Sign Nail certification followed by the Ethiopian Society of Orthopaedics & Traumatology 4th annual meeting at the Ghion Hotel. Glen, Dr. Hailu, and I attended and made many new friends. Em shared her experiences and strengths. Their gentle and sweet personalities endeared them to the staff, patients, and the many new international friends. We thank them for giving of their time and sharing of their experiences and hopes with us, and we all would gladly welcome them back in the future. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don

Timkat, January 19

Timkat is the celebration of Epiphany in Ethiopia. It is big national holiday, and thousands fill the churches, Meskel Square, and other sites around Addis. Mid-morning we took a taxi to Janmeda, a large military training field on the northern side of the city. There were thousands streaming into the grounds. For the most part, the men, women, and children were dressed in their fancy white clothes. Sermons were preached, followed by parading the Ark of the Covenant replicas under colorful large umbrellas. Masses of people were in this field, milling about with their families and friends. It was a time of celebration.
    Em, Glen, Barbara and I left to reconnect with our taxi driver; he never responded as a recording on his cell indicated he had turned his phone off. Not surprising as this is common when they don’t want to be bothered. We hired another taxi, and Mr. Lee from MCM picked us up at Friendship Shopping Center and took us to the Rainbow Korean Restaurant. I saw Mrs. Park, the restaurant proprietor in the clinic the other day, and she had invited us to her restaurant. It was down some unpaved side streets, lined with vegetable and fruit stands, a surprising bustling area of agricultural products, and tucked in there was this cozy, delightful restaurant. We were joined by Mr.& Mrs. Kim, the Koning twins and Einar. The food was magnificent. We will certainly be back. This meal was a “thank you” by Mrs. Park for attending to her medical needs. And Thank You Mrs.Park for the wonderful meal! (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don

Excursion to Wenchi Crater Lake, January 17

A last minute phone call put the Bardens and ourselves in one of two SUVs. Sven Kiplisund and Joey Johnson joined us, with Einar driving and Peer, Gru, and the Koning twins, 11 adventurers in all. We headed to Ambo, 110 kilometers from Addis, with decent paved roads. We stopped at a restaurant for coffee and then arrived at the Wenchi Crater Lake in early afternoon. We had to stop and tend to one of the cars when it overheated at the high altitude. This is Oromo tribal country, and our Amharic speakers could not communicate verbally. We parked and climbed up 50 or so meters to reach the rim of the crater. As we peered over the rim with each ascending step, it was breath-taking to look down into the crater and see the lake with islands in miniature from this height. It had an ethereal feeling in the stillness of the afternoon. The paths around us were flush with fragrant wild oregano. It was well worth the lengthy drive for these moments of visual and olfactory stimulation.
    Our car had cooled and decided to behave for the time being. We loaded up and drove on unpaved roads without incident to Negash Lodge in Wolliso. The road was under construction, and we had to wind through some unpaved and rough village streets, but then came upon this inviting lodge compound with bougainvillea and other horticultural delights. We had an incredible lunch on the veranda and then headed for home. The second car just went dead about 50 kilometers from Addis, in a small village. The mechanically minded members of our group could not diagnose the problem nor could anyone get the beast to advance one meter further. Villagers came from everywhere and were perplexed to see our men pushing the car to the side of the road (that’s a woman’s job!). After some discussion with the village elders, the car was left, and all 11 of us piled into the remaining car! It was cozy and cramped, but we were all happy to have had a wonderful day of sightseeing and adventure and were joyous of a safe return home together. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don

Mobile Clinic Day

Saturday the 16th was designated as mobile clinic day. Seven doctors (neurosurgeons, orthopaedists, vascular surgeons, etc.) participated, along with many nurses and non-medical people, including translators. A bus picked us up at the guest house, drove for about 45 minutes to the periphery of the city, and deposited us at a local church in a poor neighborhood. The church house was a rather large structure built out of mud with a tin roof and gravel-rock floor. Tables, each with a bare-bulb lamp, were set up around the periphery of the interior. It was quite dark in the building as there were no windows. Some of our group would triage the patients outside, and a hostess would direct them to the docs at the various tables. We saw over 400 patients and prescribed medications after the most primitive of diagnostic techniques. These were poor people with no financial means to obtain medical care. I gained a new perspective on the patients in this doctor/patients relationship. These folks were struggling to survive from one day to the next. They didn’t ask for my medical credentials or certifications. In their world, that was a meaningless abstraction. To these folks the important thing was that someone was there to care for them, whether it met the “standard of care” or not. They were appreciative. It was a tiring day. Reflecting on the bus ride home I had a feeling of disappointment in that we did not provide the latest and best diagnostic and therapeutic medicine; however, I was reaffirmed knowing this group of volunteers had offered the fundamental tenet of medicine, that of comforting and caring for your patient and fellow man. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Settled In

We are settled in our old apartment, again. Barbara has made it cozy with her personal touches and has been using her little Italian oven. Last night she had a dinner party for five with candlelight and a wonderfully prepared “home cooking” meal. It was a delicious meatloaf. Someone (Laura Fitzpatrick) asked if she brought the meat with her from home! Can’t you see Barbara going through security at the airport with a pig under her left arm and a turkey under her right arm!
    Em and Glen Barden arrived on the 9th. They are from Lakeland, and Glen is a hand surgeon who teaches at the University of South Florida. He has seen some interesting cases; for example, a four year-old girl who fractured her forearm several months ago, and the family took her to a local bone healer who wrapped her arm with sticks and banana leaves. The circulation was cut off to her hand and she now has a Volkman’s ischemic contracture. The wrist and hand are flexed, and she cannot open her hand to hold anything. It is useless. Glen will operate on her next week. We are thankful that he and Em have come to share when there is such need as this.
    We received our Sign nails, and all is in order. My colleague, Dr. Hailu, registered Dr. Barden, me, and himself for a Sign conference at Black Lion hospital led by Dr.Yiheyis. We have been there daily, and the next few days we’ll be at the annual meeting of the Ethiopian Orthopaedic Society here at the Ghion hotel. This is not what I had planned for Glen, but he’s a trooper and enjoys meeting new friends from a different culture. Em and Barbara have made their contributions in non-medical ways.
    Dr Richard Koenig (surgeon) from Portland, Oregon, came with a bundle of supplies, and his twin brother from Holland arrived last night. They have been very supportive of the mission work here. They have arranged for the mobile-clinic vehicle to go out this Saturday to a rural area where Glen, myself and our wives signed up to spend 10 hours seeing 500-700 patients! I’ll report on that next week--after I recover!

-- Don

Journey Back to Addis Ababa, January 6, 2010

As readers may have noticed from our Christmas Newsletter post, we returned to our home in Orlando for a few weeks to enjoy the holidays with our children and spend time with our friends.
    Our journey back to Addis Ababa began at 4:30 AM, January 6, as we left our Orlando home for the airport. We were having unseasonably cold weather for Orlando, temperature about 31 F, which made for a very frosty send off. Our friends, Dr. Tom Allerton and Jake Dominey came to help us get to the airport. Kim, our daughter, came to see us. She brought her van over the night before, and we loaded our four pieces of luggage and two large boxes we were asked to bring. With the van and the car we were off to the airport.
    We were concerned about the amount of luggage we had as we were certainly over the limit and were expecting to pay $600 for extra luggage. The organization sending the boxes had given us a check to cover the anticipated fees. A skycap helped us unload, and Don told him why we were going to Ethiopia; he asked us to wait outside while he got his supervisor. Shortly, the supervisor appeared and asked for our passports and tickets. He left us standing in the cold morning air while he went to speak with a manager about our mission. After some time he returned and said the fees had been waived, tagged our luggage, gave us our boarding passes and gate number; we could hardly believe our miracle. The lines inside were exceedingly long, so we were most fortunate for a curbside check in. The security lines were also long, but we moved quickly through and now had a two-hour wait for our 8:00 AM departure. We had no complaints, however, as we were grateful for the ease with which we were able to check in.
    Our next good fortune came at O’Hare airport in Chicago when I asked for boarding passes for the Frankfort to Addis leg of the trip. I was given those passes and then handed two more. Not knowing why, I asked, “What are these for?”, and was told we were being bumped up to business class!! He got no arguments from me!! Don could hardly believe it when I told him what had happened. It was a wonderful flight, and as this was the longest part of the journey, we enjoyed the great seats and service.
    Our journey from Frankfort got off to a late start. We had to wait in the airplane for over an hour for a tour group that arrived late for their connecting flight. They came on board and after some time the captain told us we were now waiting for a gentleman to leave the plane who had decided he didn’t want to take this flight, and his checked baggage had to be located and off-loaded. This was a bit unsettling as I wondered if this passenger knew something the rest of us did not. With such heightened security I was hoping the flight attendants would really search around where he had been seated. At this point the entire plane load could have gladly given him a piece of their minds.
    Because of our late departure from Frankfort we arrived in Addis over an hour late. Our luggage was very slow being unloaded, and after about 45 minutes our last three pieces appeared. Now to get through customs. All our baggage was required to through the security machines and the piece with medical equipment opened. Don had to leave that at the airport, and Mr. Kim, the hospital administrator who came to meet us, said someone from the hospital would retrieve it later. We certainly hope so as it is wonderful equipment.
    It was good to see Mr. Kim and others who came to help us with transportation. They were a very welcome sight; I was once again reminded of how kind everyone has been to us. Soon after we arrived in our apartment, others began to come to offer greetings and gifts of food. These gestures were special touches, especially since we were leaving some very dear ones back in Florida. It was so wonderful to be home and visit with family and friends, but so hard to say goodbye again.
    And if I needed any more reassurance about coming back to Addis, I received it on Wednesday morning, Christmas Day in Addis. Jeeon, the eight year-old next door, knocked on our door about 9:00 AM and gave me such a huge hug and began to jump up and down in our little hallway. I have never been greeted with such excitement that would cause someone to jump up and down. She certainly “made my day.” Her sister, Heeon, soon joined us and juice and peanut butter crackers were offered, followed by Jeeon reading me a book. I was really tired with jet lag, but these little girls helped brighten my day and gave me some renewed energy to tackle unpacking and reorganizing our apartment.
    Lunch time in the dining room brought more special greetings from Korean hospital staff and the Ethiopian ladies who help prepare our food. After lunch, Mr. Kim took us to see the new apartments, but we think it will be sometime before they are ready to move in. The Internet connection is not installed, appliances aren’t in place, and the closet has no bars for hanging clothes. We are quite fine and comfortable in our present apartment, so are happy to wait until all is ready.
    In the evening Mr. Kim took us for a quick trip to the grocery store and then to get pizza and soup. A good ending to our first day back in Addis, January 7, Christmas Day for the Ethiopians. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Barb