My first week was an intense crash course with Dr. Rick Hodes and his life in Addis Ababa. I slept on his living room couch for the first week as mine had been fumigated. I arrived in Addis at 10PM and the next morning Rick woke me up at 4AM to board a flight to Gondar, a town in North East Ethiopia where the JDC has a clinic for the immigrants to Israel. We spent one day in Gondar and then headed back to Addis for an intense four days before Rick left the country for three weeks.
I’ve had the most amazing experience thus far, and have learned an incredible amount of information about this beautiful country, culture, and people. Moreover, the assortment of medical terminology and diseases is somewhat overwhelming. The learning never stops and everyday brings new marvels. It is truly marvelous!
On Fridays and Saturdays we see patients at the Mother Teresa clinic for the sick, dying and destitute. The clinic is the last hope for these patients, and in a small room in the back you have a world-class internist, trained at Johns Hopkins, giving top medical care to patients of all religions and ethnicities, from all over Ethiopia. Rick mainly treats spine, cardiac, and cancer patients, although the locals think he can treat everything including Down’s syndrome and severe mental retardation.
For spines, the majority suffer from tuberculosis of the spine and scoliosis. For some reason, TB manifests in spines in this part of the world, and causes severe problems. When it comes to cardiac issues, we see almost everything. I’ve listened to about 12 heart murmurs, seen a patient with Ebstein’s Anomaly (an extremely rare condition that most cardiologists in the US have never seen), numerous mitral stenosis’ and lots of other problems associated with the heart.
As far as cancers go, Rick has pictures that seem like every single possible cancer known to man. I’ve seen an assortment of tumors but by far the patients that I’ve connected with the most have been our Hodgkin’s lymphoma children. Tragically, last week an 8 year old boy passed away. Due to the chemo treatment and his weakened immune system he didn’t stand a chance against the cancer. It was the first death I’ve had to deal with and having met this young boy when I arrived and seeing his progress for a month, dealing with his death has been very difficult. May his soul rest in peace.
As of now, I’ve spent one week in Gondar creating a report on our clinic. It’s a beautiful town and pictures can be seen on my Facebook account that I recently uploaded (click here to see the pictures). I am heading to Gondar tomorrow for another 3 nights to compile another report.
I recently finished a brochure for the 30 patients that we have in Ghana. This is the largest group Rick has sent, and on Saturday, the 19th of March, 8 returned to Addis Ababa. It was an unbelievable experience seeing the families reunited with their children. The youngest was a 4 year old girl who had traveled with no parents! The kids had been away for over a month, it was incredibly emotional.
As far as Addis life goes, I cannot complain. I’ve been meeting many people from all over the world and have been creating some life-long relationships. The food is remarkable. I’ve learned to love the local cuisine, but moreover, there are world class restaurants that are amazing (taste-wise).
I have an Amharic tutor and slowly (Kus’b'kus) I’m learning the language.
Until next time,
Today I scheduled my appointments to see the dentist, get a physical along with immunizations (never had to get so many!), along with trying to fit in some scuba dives and a skydiving trip in Santa Barbara before I leave.
A brief introduction of what I will be doing: I was chosen to be the JDC Jewish Service Corps (JSC) fellow for Ethiopia. Here is the direct link to a description of the JSC: http://www.jdc.org/help-jdc/get-involved.aspx?id=1418
A little about the JDC…”The The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters”
I will be joining Dr. Rick Hodes in his home town of Addis Ababa, where he has lived for over 22 years. His website is http://rickhodes.org/ and a few YouTube videos I recommend to watch are these: HBO Trailer: Making the Crooked Straight, Person of the Week, and an Interview with ABC News.
A very brief summary about myself to those who do not know me. I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in June of 2010. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in molecular and cellular biology. I am taking a year off before I attend medical school. I could not think of a better way to spend it than what I am about to embark on!
To be continued…