ETHIOPIA: Conscience International Medical Team Corrects Curved Spines in Young Patients in Ethiopia

Spinal surgery underway in Ethiopia

At 9:56AM, in a hospital in Ethiopia, Dr. Ted Belanger and his spinal surgery team from the Texas Back Institute in Dallas, Texas, made the first incision on the first patient of the day. Twelve hours later, at 10:20PM, the team took off their surgical gloves and masks. It had been a long, extremely focused work day. Now the wait--would the patient, who arrived at the hospital bent all the way over at the waist, stand tall with a straight back?

For the past five years, Conscience International has been supporting the work of this team of dedicated doctors, nurses, and assistants who each year donate their time, talent, and commitment to correct curved spines and give hope and a new life to so many young people in Ethiopia.

Merkebu, a little four-year-old girl, was next on the schedule. The doctors would need to remove part of her spine and fill the space by fusion. She also had a hernia in her belly button since birth-all now fixed. Merkebu lives on the street with her mother. She was wearing the same dress and shoes she had on last year when the team first saw her. Some of the team bought her new clothes.

Next up for spinal surgery was "the cutest little girl named Bamra," an eight-year-old. The first thing she said when she woke up from surgery was "Thank you" and that she wanted some "wooha" (which is water in Amharic). "It is the small gestures that remind us why we're all here!" echoed the surgery team.

It was time to discharge a patient, but coaxing her out of bed was a challenge. "It is their culture to baby each other when sick or hurting so we had to use some tough love to get her walking. But she left with a big smile and told one of the second year medical students, "You were right! I do feel better."

Later in clinic, the team saw a two-year-old little girl with muscular dystrophy. She couldn't hold her head up; her mom carries her daughter on her back wrapped in a shawl. The mother was crying. Her husband was in jail and she was being put out on the street for not paying her rent. "Our tears flowed with hers, but we have found a neurologist who is going to treat her for free and help her pay her rent. We have so much and they have nothing."

You can help! The surgical team volunteers their time, but equipment and surgical supplies are always in demand. Please donate to Conscience International in any amount and mark your donations "Ethiopia Surgeries".