Dr. Ted Belanger (back) and part of the team in an Elevator in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
At the moment there are eight volunteers here. Two more are coming on Saturday when the majority of the doctors leave to go back home. We left Dallas and had a layover in Dubai for twenty-two hours, where we relaxed and took time to settle in to the change in time and climate. We then flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where time difference is eight hours from Ethiopia to Dallas. We were all expecting the airport experience to be a rough one, going through customs with all of the medical equipment, and stopping to check visas. We were all stunned when we didn’t even get stopped and we walked straight through customs. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed straight to the hospital to drop the equipment and get the patients prepped for surgery. Random consults would walk up to us and hand us their X-rays just because we are from America, and they think we can fix them.
Yesterday we started out the day seeing every patient that we had scheduled for surgery within the next two and a half weeks. The process of this included an examination by Dr. Belanger, Dr. Putney, Dr. Berchuck, and Dr. Andrade. Mrs. Toni Belanger took all the notes on the patients, what surgery they needed, and their medical history. There have been many tears shed already and we are only on day three. Most of our patients are extremely young, and very self-conscious of the way they look. Some of them don’t even want you to look at them because they are so embarrassed by what they look like.
We also saw all of the patients that we could possibly add on to our already hectic schedule. We have already added a few cases. The volunteers that work for Dr. Rick Hodes have been extremely helpful in getting the patients X-rays, and having the prepared for surgery. An eight-year-old boy named Mengistu was sent back to Ethiopia from Ghana with an infection. The infection is complex and we are going to take him into surgery for a clean-out. He smiles all the time, and he has the best attitude about everything. There is also an eighteen-year-old girl that we added on today whose kyphosis is so severe that she can hardly walk, and has a lump on her back from where her spine sticks out of her skin. She was very shy, but very sweet.
On day one of surgery, after seeing all of the patients, we started our first case on a sixteen-year-old female. With assistance from Dr. Putney, and Dr. Berchuck, Dr. Belanger did a T3-L1 PSF1, which is a big scoliosis case. This surgery consisted of putting in rods and screws to straighten out the spine to a more natural position. After seeing her today at her post-op, she is doing amazing! She was up and walking, and smiling so big. Her father was very grateful for us doing her surgery.
On day 2 we started out with Dr. Berchuck, Jason, Dr. Andrade, and Mrs. Belanger going into the clinic to see a few add-on cases. Dr. Belanger, Walt, and Dr. Putney started the first case for the day at the same time. A ten-year-old female named Shiferaw undergoing a T-11/12 VCR (TOTAL) T9-L2. The other case for today is Lidya, a thirteen-year-old female who is having a T4-L1 PSF1.
Every night after we finish at the hospital we have our driver from the hotel take us to dinner. So far he has picked the restaurants that we eat at. The first night we ate at a restaurant named Lucy’s, they had pretty good pizza, and we are discovering all types of new foods here in Ethiopia.