Monthly Archives: July 2012

Addis Update April 2012: Medical Teams

Greetings from Baltimore. I arrived in the US on March 17th and will be here until May 11th. It will be good to see many of you while I’m stateside. But it is time for an update from Addis. One of my major responsibilities is helping to coordinate our visiting medical teams, so I’m going to give you a glimpse into how that works. We host 8-10 teams each year and find that they greatly help our ministry here in Addis.

On a recent Sunday morning, the Ethiopian Airlines 777 touched down at Bole Airport in Addis with 12 members of a team from MD, NY, WA, TX, and NC. Gizaw, our team coordinator and our trusty Getts Travel bus met them at the airport. Once through immigration and customs, they went to our guesthouse to settle in for 12 days. There was orientation after lunch, and then they all went to bed to deal with jet lag. On Monday morning we started with team devotions and sent them out on home visits to learn about how our beneficiaries and the patients they would see in outreach clinics live.

Two of the patients we saw stand out and describe the need that exists for health care in Addis. The first was young man who had sustained a head injury, was seen at the local hospital and a CT scan was ordered. He couldn’t afford it, so was sent home. The community health extension workers knew of his situation, so sent him to our clinic. We were able to send him for the CT scan, using money that the medical teams provide for such tests. This showed bleeding between his skull and brain. We sent him back to the hospital, where he was able to have the surgery he needed to remove the blood. Needless to say, he and his family were very thankful.

The second was an elderly man with a chronic leukemia who was prescribed oral medication to take, which would cost him the equivalent of $250/month, which is likely more money than he survives on in a year. In the West, his condition would be considered a medical emergency and he would have received care. We routinely see people at our outreach clinics who have greater financial needs for health care than they or we can meet”-like the 22 year old who needs $200 a week for kidney dialysis and $25,000 for a kidney transplant in India, but no way to get anti-rejection drugs in Ethiopia. These dilemmas are never easy, often heartbreaking, and repeatedly remind me of the brokenness, inequalities and injustice of the world we live in.

We limit the number of people we see in a day so that the providers can spend adequate time with each patient. Many people here never get touched by a health care worker”-it always astounds me that diagnoses can be made without any hands-on or stethoscope-on care”-so we encourage touch, time and prayer.

There is always discussion in the missions community about the benefits or lack thereof, related to hosting short-term teams. At our project, we like teams. They provide us with added value to the work that we do in the following ways:

  • In the early days of the project, helped us learn to care for sick and dying people and the treatment of HIV.
  • Bring medical expertise and knowledge.
  • Help us build relationships with the community, local government and local churches when they participate in outreach clinics.
  • Provide ministry to our children, support groups, community Bible studies.
  • Bring needed supplies that we can’t get here.
  • Encourage the missionaries and Ethiopian staff.

Teams are a lot of work, but we have a good system in place. My responsibilities are varied. Before the teams come, I coordinate the “wish list” that all teams get about 6 weeks ahead of time, to request medical and non-medical items that we need. I work with the rest of our team to make sure the numbers of patients scheduled is appropriate to the number of providers we have. Once the teams are in Addis, I do a medical orientation to help the providers and nurses understand the way things work. On the work site, I become the “consultant”, along with my Ethiopian nurse as we make recommendations to the providers about how best to deal with the problems that they are seeing. I often help the pharmacy in dispensing medications, and translating directions for the patients. Sometimes, if it is a busy day, I will see patients for a while. At the end of the day, we pack everything up and make a list of what we need for the next day, and I either get it from our stock or go to the local pharmacy to buy it.

Counting meds and filling prescriptions.
An old man is trying out reading glasses, one of the most popular items we have–if one person is seen getting them, suddenly everyone wants them! The picture doesn’t do the event justice, as he was quite comical.
You can see how much Dr. Diana loves being a pediatrician. And the little boy is very cute!

So from a few pictures, I hope you get a taste of what a medical team is like. We are always looking for doctors, NP’s, RN’s, Physical Therapists, general helpers, teachers, and pastors to come and work with us. Unfortunately, we can’t accept Physician’s Assistants, as the Ethiopian government won’t credential them. If you want to participate in a team, you can email the medical office at Mission to the World:

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in the US during my time here. Many thanks to all of you who help to support my work in Ethiopia. I know I sound like a broken record in almost every letter, but without you, I couldn’t be in Addis, doing what I love.