Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Ethiopia Spine Surgery Mission Trip 2014

We left May 12, 2014 and had a layover in Dubai. The stay there was very nice. We arrived in Addis Abba, Africa on May 13th, 2014. Our trip started with customs. They confiscated the birrs and the 2 power boxes that we had for the drills. This makes it quite hard for surgery but not impossible. After 2 days of working with customs and a lot of paperwork they gave us the boxes but no birrs…. luckily we had left some in prior years.
May 15th, On our 2nd day of being in Africa, Dr. Ted Belanger, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon and Dr. Christopher Happ, Texas Back Institute Fellow, were already doing their first case. (This is a miracle here by the way). They performed a T4-L1 scoliosis fusion on a 17 yr. old female. the surgery went very well and the post operative x-rays today looked perfect. I am attaching her before and after x-rays.
The obstacles we have had to face with this first patients care so far is pain control due to no pain medication, post-operative lab work, and we take the patient yourself to the x-ray department and stay with the patient until they are finished. The patients are recovering in rooms with their families taking care of them. Also in this room are 5 other beds with 5 other patients families. This makes for a really crowded room and it gets hot with no air conditioning in the hospital.
Today, May 16th Dr. Belanger & Dr. Happ preformed another T4-L1 scoliosis fusion with rib resection. This was a 14 yr. old girl. We will follow up with her in the morning to get her post op x-ray done and labs drawn.
Dr. Ted Belanger and Dr Christopher Happ in surgery.
A Note from Dr. Belanger about the trip:
Well, three cases done now in 3 days and a tougher one on the books for the morning (90 degree scoliosis).  All are doing well so far and we are doing better with pain control than last year (because we brought some of our own medications…)
Dr. Happ is quickly assimilating more skills in organizing the sequence of a more complex case, putting in pedicle screws in tiny thoracic vertebrae which are rotated (not easy), facetectomies, thoracoplasties, etc.
Toni Belanger (Dr. Belanger’s wife) is filling in perfectly for my brother as the team photographer and essentially a PA, chasing down labs and xrays, cross checking medication administration, monitoring drains, and mobilizing the patients (I guess also the physical therapist).
The jet lag is fading a bit (finally) and we are all accommodating to the altitude (8000ft).  My heart pounds less and I am less short of breath after a flight of stairs.  The food still leaves something to be desired…  I miss my shower and my comfortable bed.
The fun continues!
– Dr. Ted Belanger
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