Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching Up

There has been a lot of activity since the last posting. So much so that it threw me out of kilter and resulted in the prolonged delay. Following is a summary of some of the interval highlights.

Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year occurred on September 11. There is always a big celebration among friends after 3 months of heavy rains. On New Years eve, torches of dry leaves and wood bundled in the form of tall, thick sticks are also set on fire in front of houses as the young and old sing. Early in the morning everybody goes to church followed by a family meal of Injera and Wat. The operating room staff shared an additional celebration.

Meskel Flower celebration is another big event and is an annual religious holiday commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helena in the 4th century. It is celebrated on September 27 which coincides with the blooming of the Meskel flower coming at the end of the rainy season. The fields are covered in a blanket of yellow flowers.

October brought us many guests and events.

Our church celebrated International Day. Over sixty nations were represented.

Korean Day was celebrated on October 3. The Korean Embassy invited us to attend a celebration at the Sheraton which included fancy food and a special performance by the "Little Angels." They are talented children from Korea with irresistible singing and dance programs. The Ambassador and his wife were the hosts, and the Ethiopian Veterans that served in the Korean war of independence were honored. It was a memorable event.

We had a special visit from the Florida Hospital group of Orlando headed up by CEO Lars Houmann and his wife Julie. Lars grew up in his early years in Ethiopia as his parents were Danish missionaries to Ethiopia. Summit compound is near us on the outskirts of a fast growing part of the city and is composed of a school of over 600 students and a beautiful new medical clinic. This is a Seventh Day Adventist initiative and we are all excited about developing the potential of Summit. We are thankful for this special group of folks whose paths have brought us together.

Dr. Mark Hardy and his wife Ruth visited us from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York along with a surgical resident and a medical student. He developed the transplant program at Columbia and made a number of presentations at our grand rounds on the subject and where our hospital stood in the future of transplants. His wisdom and experience was well received and we look forward to a return visit.

Oncology groups from Harvard and Georgetown sent representatives for their respective adult and pediatric programs. Most of their work will be done at Black Lion Hospital, and we are appreciative of their work, which is so desperately needed for cancer patients that have had to fight their disease without the latest medical advances.

Gladys and Deji Otegbeye came with the Florida Hospital group, but spent some days with us. Deji and I have traveled together for years doing volunteer work from our church in Orlando. They are a very special couple to us and committed to God’s work.

Dick Koning, surgeon from Oregon has had a special interest in the hospital and done much to further the improvement of care. He is another doc that has contributed much to the hospital and is a special person to Barbara and me. His identical twin brother from the Netherlands and a friend came also for a short visit and did some highly specialized surgery. Dr. Knut Wester, Neurosurgeon from Norway heads up the neurosurgical residency program and has been an example of success with perseverance. John Gleysteen, a general surgeon from Alabama, spent time with us before traveling down to Sodo to work. We hope John returns soon and helps us with the residency programs

John and Karen Tanksley come from Missouri to be with us. John is an orthopaedic surgeon and Karen is a pediatrician. John developed kidney stone symptoms a few days after arrival and had to go back to Missouri. He promptly passed the stone and returned to Addis! His wise council and knowledge is an immense help in developing our orthopaedic program. They are coming back in March, and I very much look forward to seeing them.

My good friend Rick Hodes, called me and asked Barbara and me to come over for dinner with Dr. Zeke Emmanuel. I didn’t recognize the name but he had been sent by President Obama to assess medical needs in several African countries for his Global Medical Initiative. It was an interesting evening of dialogue

Fikru, our Ethiopian artist friend had a house warming for his new house in the CMC area of town. His wife Josephine is French and has a PhD In archeology. Ethiopia provides many areas of interest for Josephine. Fikru introduced us to Wosene, an Ethiopian artist that lives in California, He was in Addis to open a show. We attended the opening, which was at the National Museum, and was a gala event packed with people including representatives from The Smithsonian in Washington and New York representatives.

On November 22 Barbara and I returned to the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family. We also prepared our home for listing to sell. I returned to Ethiopia, on January 7. Barbara’s passport was lost in the certified mail department of the post office, and she, therefore, could not return with me. She obtained a new passport and a visa from the Ethiopian Embassy and is now ready to travel with me to Africa.

Glen Barden, hand surgeon from the University of South Florida, his wife Em, Jeremy Miles, a first year orthopaedic resident and his wife Amy, a PhD in Physical Therapy and Mark Landfear a surgical tech from Lakeland, Florida, came as a team. They all contributed greatly and special events occurred while they were at MCM. We were delighted to learn at the outset that the final approval of Black Lion orthopaedic residents was approved for them to rotate through MCM! This is something Dr. Wouballem (head of Ortho at Black Lion) and I have been working on since September of 2009. Medical student Andrew Pirette came from Missouri, to savor the medical activities at MCM.The next event was a visit to the British Embassy. Ambassador Norman Ling and his wife Selma invited the group for hors d'oeuvres along with the Facing Africa group from the United Kingdom. The ambassador and his wife were gracious and kind and everyone enjoyed a delightful evening.

Facing Africa is a British foundation that comes twice a year to operate on Noma patients. These are children who have one side of their face eaten away by aggressive oral bacteria when they were very young and usually on the verge of starvation. They are so disfigured that they are ostracized by family and friends. These surgeons come in and operate on 30-40 of these kids to reconstruct their faces. It is difficult surgery and extensive but it improves the lives of these otherwise rejected children.

One day last week the hospital was all atwitter. The African Union annual meeting is held in Addis Ababa, and all the Heads of State of the African countries assemble in the great African Union Hall. Streets are shut down unannounced when dignitaries move about or go to the airport, making travel by ordinary drivers miserable. However, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, attended and made a side visit to the MyungSung Korean Hospital. He came with an entourage of dignitaries and secret service. They called me to be in front of the receiving line with Dr.Kim and Mr. Kim! It was a momentous occasion. He was articulate, gracious and spoke flawless English. His wife was lovely and had a heavy heart for the young Ethiopian girls that go to work in the mid-east and are abused. She is working on an initiative in that area.

I have returned to America to go to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery annual meeting in San Diego. Barbara and I plan to return to Africa at the end of February. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don