Lauren Kennedy, right, all smiles for a little girl following her successful spinal surgery in Ethiopia

Lauren Kennedy is on her first trip to Ethiopia with her parents, Toni and Dr. Ted Belanger of the Texas Back Institute (Dallas area) who is leading a Conscience International medical team to perform spinal surgeries primarily on young people.  Her parents have made several annual trips to this nation bringing hope and health to many of the country’s poorest. The following excerpts are from Lauren’s blog post.

“I can successfully say that I scrubbed in with Ted and touched a living person’s spine!

“The whole experience was thrilling and a once in a lifetime experience.  We saw the majority of the patients from last year and it was incredible to see the change in their X-rays and how tall they stood because of the pride they carry on their straight backs. Self-esteem in patients with a spinal deformity is normally very low.

“When you’re here everything you have been worrying about back home seems so small [in comparison.]

“These kids have their backs opened, and they pretend they have no pain. They worry about not having a bed to sleep in after a surgery. They worry that they won’t be able to pay for healthcare and that they may die. They worry about being paralyzed. They have so much to worry about that is a cakewalk to us in the U.S. It is incredible how coming to a foreign country like this changes you and the way you think. Doctors only get paid one hundred U.S. Dollars a month, so imagine how much other people make who don’t work in the hospital.  Theirs is such a poor country.  Even though the number of people we can help is slim, it is enough to want to come back and do it all over again, or stay longer.

“The case I scrubbed for was on Etsubdink Cherinet and she is already feeling better since surgery. She had a hematoma and pressure on her spinal cord from a bone that was nudged in between her spine and spinal cord. We took out the extra bone and sewed her up and she is doing awesome already.


“We had another patient’s surgery scheduled but they didn’t tell us until last minute that the girl was anemic so she had to have a blood transfusion before we could operate. This takes hours because the blood has to be warm in order to go in her body, and it was cold. So they took the blood and put it in a bowl of hot water next to her bed. That is an example of the things we see here that are so different from America.

“We added an emergency case.  Her name is Ethemariyam. She is s thirty-four years old and has an abscess from tuberculosis. She has been paraplegic for about two weeks and is progressively getting worse. If Dr. Belanger doesn’t do the surgery she could be paralyzed for life, and that would be heartbreaking.

“Another patient was handed to us in the hallway because he was in a car accident, paralyzed from the chest down.  The sad thing is that there was nothing we could do for him… he would be that way for life. His family crowds around us because they think that we can help him, and we can’t. Sadly, not everything can be fixed.”

June 2015

You, too, can help restore health, happiness, and a future for many people of Ethiopia who were born with spinal deformities. By choosing to give to Conscience International you help support young people, such as these, through the volunteer efforts of Dr. Belanger and his surgical teams who make annual trips to Ethiopia to perform corrective surgeries.


Choose the ‘Special Purpose’ option (third box down) and “Select a Designation” – Ethiopia. All donations are tax-deductible.