Monday, July 12, 2010

A new life

Or "peace" in English. So, it is near the end of my day, my first day of my second year to be exact, and it is th
e beginning of the day in Ethiopia. Although my jet lag has long passed and I am well on my way to a normal lifef, I still feel like part of me has not returned back from Ethiopia. This trip has been by far the best mission trip I have been on and has left its mark on my heart for life. There were so many special moments i would love to share with you, but the one thing I must tell you
about Ethiopians is their amazing
capacity for love and generosity.
Image: Left to Right: Abraham, Mituku,
Me, "G-Baby"

Imagine you are at home, the doorbell rings, and you see two foreigners and one translator. They inform you that they are doing a survey on your health system and need to ask some personal questions. (each survey also takes about 10-20 minutes) What would your reaction to these individuals be? Would you invite them, go outside to talk, or just say you dont have time to answer their survey and shut the door? I believe, that I and most Americans would choose the latter. This however did not occur in Ethiopia, we (two medical students) and a translator would walk hut to hut doing surveys on Maternal health. When inside the huts, the women or other family members would give us their only chairs. I tried to refuse the first day but by the second day I knew there was no refusing to sit, as the women whom we were surveying would stand and answer our questions.

The second great act of generosity was
when some of the women would invite us for coffee at the end of the survey. I know what your thinking, coffee no big deal right....Well, sitting for coffee in Ethiopia is an hour or more ordeal. It is something people do as a social event, they sit and talk about their days, their families, and just relax. It was amazing that people who have so little offer so much to complete strangers.

The people of Ethiopia are also so welcoming, they greeted us on the streets saying, "Welcome to Africa" or "Hello, How are you?" Lets think about this, how many times have you seen a foreigner, or lets just say anyone that you didn't know on the street and said "Hello,
how are you?" It really made me think about how disconnected to humanity we can become in our day to days. Those words, "hello, how are you" are so simple and easy to ask and yet can make someone's day just as it did to me.

The third act of love and kindness that I saw was the story of Abraham. This story began on our third day of clinic. Annie and I had some free time away from the Pharmacy table so we decided to go an help out on intake. Intake had gotten really crazy with well over 100 people each day crowding, pushing, and trying to be seen. Annie and I stepped outside and we saw a little child lying on the ground. We went to his side and with out interpreter we asked the people beside him where his parents had been. They said he showed up on his own. So when I went to wake him from his sleep, I felt his arms and they were on fire. Annie felt his head and we both knew that we needed to get him into the clinic. We quickly picked him up and rushed him onto the only examining table we had. We got a temperature reading and it read over a 106 degrees. I started to quickly rip of his clothing and yelled for wet towels and water. I don't quite remember who got the water because as I started to take his clothes off, huge ants started coming out of every conner of his clothes.

The team quickly got all the ants off of him and we started to pull the water all over his body. Dr. Usatine, told us to get an 800mg of Ibuprofen to help break the fever. The child was barely responsive, but we got his name "Abraham" and his age, 10. Dr. Usatine quickly talked to the health clinic officials and we rushed him into the only bed available in L&D. The nurses at the clinic put in an IV and Dr. U ordered fluids. Now we played a waiting game. Long story short, he recovered after two days of broad spectrum antibiotics. He told Tsegaye, the owner of Common River, that his father had beat him and ran him out of this town at the age
of 6. He walked 30 km to Aleta Wondo, where he had been working and living on the streets at time for 4 years. When he got seriously sick, his employers fired him and kicked him out. We talked to Tsegaye and he said that if Abraham agreed, Common River, would find him a place to sleep, eat 3 meals a day, and go to school.

After ripping off all his clothes, I gave some of my clothes to him and Annie gave him her tennis shoes and socks. Annie and I went everyday and brought him food in the hospital for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everytime we came through the door, it was amazing to see his eyes light up with his big smile and he would give us a hug. He gladly accepted Tsegayes offer and is staying with one of the nicest staff members, Tafasaye. It was truly touching and tough to see Abraham run after the bus as we left the compound.

The hardest part about leaving Ethiopia was leaving this place of love. We all grew attached to people there, but Abraham and some others especially hold a place in my heart. I do not know how one can go on a trip and experienc
e the wonderful people of Ethiopia and not come out a little different and filled with a new sense of love and gratefulness. I look forward to writing Abraham, Mituku, and Z, who are new members of my family.

Thank you Katie Gong for putting this amazing trip together, Josh for all our wonderful talks, Wade and Ed for keeping things lively, Myra for always ready to listen and being a secret assassin, Annie for helping us become "team awesome" and not making me the only "mushy" person on this trip, Nishina for being my "Habiti", and finaly Dr. U for being an amazing mentor and educator, not to mention a suave salsa dancer as well!


Matt -

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