What a day this has been! Following our group breakfast, which included an Ethiopian classic, “bula” (Google it if you’re curious), we all departed for the hospital. Even our vision screening team was stationed at the hospital today to provide eye exams for the hospital staff (see Becky’s upcoming contribution to the blog). Following rounds, our surgeons joined Dr. Fekadu in the OR, our wonderful nurses assumed their various and important roles, and Dr. Jacobs and I returned to our clinic room, unaware of what type of feet were going to walk through the door. For readers who don’t know, this is the first year our team has included Podiatry. After clearing up some initial confusion, as many hospital staff were excited that a team of Pediatric surgeons were coming this year, we quickly established our interests and capabilities with the general practitioners who promptly began sending patients our way.
Armed with our myriad medical supplies and accompanied by our translator and wingman, Tesfaye, we opened shop with our first patient. This fourteen year old boy was brought in by his father (who was a patient of ours the day before) with concerns of swelling, odor and skin changes to his left foot. They denied injury and stated the foot had been like this for two months. Fast-forward through much medical jargon and Amharic translation, and the diagnosis was “podoconiosis”, a devastating yet completely preventable disease that is quite prevalent in this area. The best treatments include proper hygiene and wearing appropriate shoes, as many people lack access to shoes. This forces them to go barefoot on the rough native terrain, riddled with volcanic rock, among other obstacles, which contributes to the development of this condition. We initiated our treatment and were blessed by the boy’s father for our care.
The rest of the day included various ailments which we would not typically encounter in practice in the US. We also had time to spend interacting with two of the brightest young general practitioners in the hospital, exchanging techniques, knowledge and ideas. Dr. Jacobs even wrote a prescription on an Ethiopian Rx pad! The surgeons engaged in multiple teaching sessions with the OR staff following their successful surgical cases. The amazing nature of our vision team shone through when after packing up their stations, another hospital staff member presented for screening, and instead of having him come another day, they unpacked their supplies and joyfully examined this young man.
I have two final highlights I’d like to share with you. First, once we returned to camp, Dr. Jacobs, Mallory and I grabbed our plethora of football (soccer) supplies and headed to the rocky, uneven field where the house children play every day and we began a game of pick-up soccer with the children. It didn’t take more than 15 minutes before we had a full-blown game with 8 or 9 members to both teams! The children are SO grateful, joyful, talented and genuine; I envy them in these respects and wish I could do much more for all of them! The relationships we began with these children felt like the most important thing we’ve achieved to date.
Finally, after a delectable dinner prepared by our stupendous kitchen staff, we were blessed with the presence of two representatives of Tom’s Shoes. In conjunction with Wanda (Lali’s wife), Tom’s Shoes recently distributed over 1,000 pairs of shoes to the students at Project Mercy. This company donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased through their retail stores (or online), and hand-delivers them to more than 70 countries to ensure the shoes are actually given to those who need them. They are planning to replace the shoes every 3 months here, as the children wear through them quickly, and this appears to be a long-term relationship with Project Mercy! If you don’t own a pair of Tom’s Shoes, let this be my shameless plug in urging you all to purchase them! I know I’ll be doing so for my wife & three sons (all of whom I miss dearly), when I return to the States. Thank you all for your prayer, support and attention (I know this was a long entry).