Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Dr. Belanger’s Ethiopia Medical Mission Trip – Day 9

By 10:30am Dr. Belanger and Dr. Wale were already hard at work on a case for the day. One of the patients of the day Tinsae is twelve years old and has a bad case of kyphosis. We woke up, ate breakfast, had a cup of coffee, and headed to the hospital. When we got there Dr. Belanger, Dr. Wale and Walt tried to get things going upstairs and Toni, Jason, and Lauren rounded on all the patients. This particular morning when we rounded on patients we discharged Tirudle from four days earlier, and Romel from three days earlier. They are both doing great! These kids are going through so much and still manage to smile when you walk in the room. These are the bravest group of people we have ever had the privilege of knowing. They go into the OR alone and they go through all of this stuff not knowing how it’s going to feel, or who the doctor is that is doing their surgery. We are very proud of them.

We went into a traditional African souvenir store and bought gifts for our friends and family. We wanted to get something authentic. A great gift to give is coffee. The coffee here is very good. We bought buy suitcases full of coffee to bring home. The coffee from Ethiopia is very strong, very effective, and very tasty.

We have learned so much being here. In Amharic the letters that they use aren’t used as English letters; they are characters that, put together, make a sound. For example, we had someone write Toni’s name in Amharic and it was only two characters. We asked him to explain it and he said that the first letter he drew was a “toe” sound and the second sound was the “knee” sound. So together they spelled Toni but with only two characters. Their language is very difficult to learn. We have only learned a few words from Dr. Belanger saying them all the time and from the patients.

This trip has been life changing. We have met so many people who have devoted their lives to these kinds of missions. We met another Medtronic Rep who came a few times and now he lives in Kenya. He travels all over Africa helping to get people better equipment. All of the people that we have met while being here are great, and the staff is awesome.

Yesterday we met a lady from Washington D.C. who is Ethiopian and had travelled back here because her mom was very sick. She had heard about what we were doing, the surgeries we preformed and she wanted to donate money for next year’s trip. She said that she worked for the government and that she knows lots of Ethiopians in D.C. who would love to donate as well. She thanked us for our work.

Dr. Rick Hodes came back today! He was out of the country. He is a very selfless man. When a patient has surgery and have no place to stay, Rick will take them into his home and take care of them after surgery. He also funds all of the surgery and hospital stays. He is very involved in philanthropic missions. He has done lots of things to help people that he doesn’t know. He is a great guy.

Walt left before we did. It was strange for him to not be there. He was a big part of the team. He got the instruments ready, cleaned the instruments, and scrubbed in and helped Dr. Belanger with whatever he needed. Jason stepped up and took over for him.

We are hoping that this weekend goes swiftly. The cases that Dr. Belanger scheduled for this weekend are pretty easy compared to the cases he has been doing.

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