Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cook Children's cardiac team helps 32 patients in Ethiopia

Scott Brown is now back in the U.S. after an amazing adventure in Ethiopia.  One part of that adventure was serving as the catalyst between the Cook's Childrens doctors and the Ethiopian government to make this mission possible. Please spread this story on your social media sites.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Mekelle here we come …

Belay is at the guest house at 4:45 am with two Gladney social workers and four of our caregivers as we head to the airport. We arrive in Mekelle after our one hour flight and are met by Kaleb (kaa-leb) and Guerre (gur-ray) who run the care center supported by Gladney. We head to the hotel to check in and then to a small “hole in the wall” cafĂ© that has this specialty called Fana. It is a popular place with a line waiting to get in, so we wait our turn, then are ushered in and share the tables with the locals. Fana is an interesting concoction where they bring you three rolls that you tear into small pieces in a bowl with a number on it (you have to remember your number in order to get it back). Belay said the waiters will tear up the bread for me, but looking at their hands I realized my hands were a bit cleaner. When finished tearing up the rolls, you give your bowl and tell the waiter your number and he takes it back to the kitchen for the cooks to toast the bread, put scrambled eggs on it and bring it back to your table. In his hands, he also has a small bowl of hot peppers, onion, tomatoes, and garlic and another bowl of yogurt. You then tell him if you want everything on the bread and eggs, which I did, and he combines it together and stands at your table tossing it all with a spoon. I see the owner going around with a spoon telling the diners they look like they are full and need some help to finish their meal, and then he scoops his spoon in their bowl taking a big bite. This is done so the diners hurry up and eat to free the tables. I am eating as fast as I can, all the time imagining the owner dipping his spoon into my bowl. We get out of there without the owners spoon touching our food, whew!

We head off to the care center to visit the caregivers and kids. It is a very clean, well run center and the children there are precious. I get some time to talk to Kaleb and Guerre and find out more about what Gladney is doing in this community. We have sponsored a mothers-to-mothers group program where 18 women living with HIV/AIDS offer assistance to other women living with AIDS to help cook, clean and care for their babies, through our funding we have also reunited 51 street children with their families and continue to meet with the families to follow up.

We end up at our hotel to watch a soccer game with Arsenal taking on Manchester United (think Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins). The hotel lobby is packed with several TV’s on and there is nowhere to sit.  We are told to go to an auditorium across the street where there are about 20 people watching so we join them. Final score 3 – 1 Man U.


Buttermilk Biscuits …

As I step out of my room, the smell of biscuits and eggs surround me. Chef Eric is cooking breakfast for us and I cannot wait. Marta, one of the workers at the guest house senses that so she brings me a glass of mango juice with two fluffy biscuits and butter. Eric said those were his “test batch” and I thought they passed the test. With the altitude being 7,000 feet, no measuring cups, different ingredients than what you get in the U.S., I was surprised at how he managed to get them to bake just like home. We waited on Belay and then sat down to fresh coffee, buttermilk biscuits, butter (of course), cherry and strawberry jam and scrambled eggs with fresh rosemary, parsley, and goat cheese. One word – awesome!

We then leave to pick up the medical team at the Ghion Hotel. As I said, they have been working night and day and so after working this morning, they are going to visit our foster care centers and do some shopping. A few have already left for their return to Fort Worth, but we pick up 19 of them and need three vans for our outing. We head first to the Gladney Foster Care Centers and I really had to keep my eye on several of them because I do believe if given the chance, they would sneak a few of these kids out with them.

We then leave to go to the Kechene Girls shop. This is the shop Belay set up for the girls who aged out of Kechene to sell the products they make, as well as other products they buy wholesale and then sell in this shop. The items that the team bought mean so much to the support of these young women. We then went to some other shops for more shopping, then to Island Breeze for a burger before Dr. Vincent Tam and Dr. Teresa Holland had to catch their flight. The rest of the team leave Sunday evening, so they will be getting up tomorrow to make the trek to Entoto Mountain.

Belay takes me back to the guest house so I can pack and get up at 4:00 am for my flight to Mekelle. Belay’s day is not over yet, though as he goes to the hospital to check on Tsega, the little boy from Kechene and another child who was admitted today for pneumonia.

So it’s off to bed…


The village elders decide the cost of 8 cows…

Today, Joseph had to travel back to the village where his vehicle hit and killed the one cow and injured seven others. The proceedings started out in the morning and I inquired several times during the day to see what was decided. It is interesting that he is responsible, since we were diving within the speed limit, on a public road and the herd was crossing at night without any visual warning. But when you think about it, we are the trespassers, building a road right through their pastures and their livelihood.

I was supposed to go to Nazret to visit the cattle ranch that Gladney set up for 10 of the young men who aged out of the Kolfe Boys Orphanage, but after the incident last night and being gone 16 hours, I just couldn’t bring myself to it. Eric, Susan, Melanie and I go with Belay to the Gladney Foster Care Centers to visit the children and caregivers. It is hard to leave, but we pull away to head for lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, the East Dragon. I hope I didn’t build it up to my guests too much, but I wanted Chef Eric to experience Chinese food in Ethiopia. It just sounds strange, doesn’t it? I think he enjoyed it, I know I did.

As we are eating, I get a call from Joseph and the elders decide he should pay 9,000 birr (around $850 USD) for the cattle, but since they slaughtered 7 of them, they give him 2,000 birr back. As he is driving back from the elder meeting with his friend, they drive by the scene of the accident where the dead cow still lays. Several vultures are there feasting on the carcass when one of the vultures flies up and strikes their windshield, totally smashing it. As he is telling me, he just seems defeated. He will find out tomorrow the cost of the damage to his vehicle in which the insurance expired two days before. I failed to mention that he is also still making payments on the vehicle.

After our meal, we are off to the government run orphanages and start with Kolfe Boys. When we arrive, the boys gather around and take us around their home. We see several familiar faces, the ones that most families want to support because they are so outgoing, but that is why we need to have our general scholarship fund because there are others who are very shy, but have such great potential. To highlight one of those boys, I want to introduce you to Daniel. Daniel is very small in stature, probably about 5’2” and always in the background when I would visit. I would try to talk to him, but either because his English was not very good or he didn’t understand my Texas accent, he just would not say much. He was one of the young men we sent to cooking school. They all studied very hard and passed the course and Daniel was one of the boys we saw working this morning at the Gladney Foster Care Center who is cooking for the children in our care. He came up to me with the biggest smile looking the part in his chef jacket. Gladney and our donors have changed another life. I love my job!

We leave the boys and head to Kechene Girls Orphanage where I end up in the infant room holding a crying baby, trying to comfort her. As I am walking around the room noticing many of the beds doubled up with babies, I notice a little guy who is very sick and lethargic. I am trying to ask the caregiver if he has been seen by a doctor when Belay walks in. I can’t tell you how worried I was for this sick baby. Belay asked the director and she said they didn’t have the money to take him to the hospital, so Belay, Eric, Susan, Tsega (the baby), his caregiver and I head off to the hospital. There is no one in the waiting room, but we continue to wait for over an hour. I later find out that the doctor was on her way in a taxi. If you are wondering why a hospital would not have a physician there 24 hours as day, it is because that is the reality as the doctor shortage continues to impact this country. After several tries, they finally get an IV of glucose and antibiotics pumping into his little body. As we leave the hospital, I am once again reminded of how Belay’s days are planned out, but many times take a totally different path. Did I mention flexibility is the key to sanity here?