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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Travel + Adventure = Healing - Ethiopia - 3 - Peds Hem/Onc 1

What I found utterly amazing in my time in Addis Ababa regarding the medical piece of the trip was that people travel hundreds of miles, often on foot, to get their sick child help in any way they could. Many opt not to as well for many reasons, but that is why Dr. Shad and the Aslan Project, in conjunction with the Department of the Health Ministry in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Jima, and Gondar, are mapping out the way that families and children with cancer, can be helped, even saved from their diseases.

Most childhood cancers can be cured at a low cost. In high-resource countries, more than 80% of children with cancer survive. Elsewhere, the vast majority of children with cancer die, often in great pain. I love the fact there are people in the world trying to make a huge difference in these precious children's lives. I was humbled to witness a tiny bit of the arduous process.

Here is an example of instant perspective expansion:

The large doors swung open to gain entrance to the pediatric ward. I took a deep, cleansing breath and said a silent prayer for all those in-house. Thankfully, the waiting area was bright with a large, colorful painted mural of animals that anyone would see in other hospitals around the globe. Maybe it was to put kids in a good mood, coming or going, out of the starkness behind the ward doors.

From the instant my feet crossed the threshold, maintaining an upbeat attitude would take some work. I noticed the hallways were lit with dingy bulbs, and I could barely hear what Free and the charge nurse told me about the floor because my heart and head were pulsating with all kinds of thoughts on our world—and this underdeveloped nation's—hospital.

Free, and the charge nurse took me around the entire floor. When they asked one parent if I could see their room and child, we got the green light and a beautiful smile from both the child and parent. I faintly smiled back. My stomach was in knots. I was crying on the inside at what these parents had to deal with each day, starting with the cage-like crib this child was ensconced in while receiving chemotherapy and a flush (saline solution).

My heart sank when I looked over at the little white plastic garden chair that parents “get to” sit on should they tire of standing bedside or crib side. I tried my darndest not to shed a tear, but I think a few slipped out and down my face—more deep breaths were needed to finish the tour. In those few moments on the tour, I decided I wanted to buy comfy chairs before I left Addis (I didn't think they would be that expensive, and I was not spending hardly any money or did for the rest of my trip). When I offhandedly mentioned my idea to Dr. Shad and Julie, I got blank stares back. Most likely, the chairs would be delivered and walked out the door later that same day. Yes, they would be stolen by mostly hospital staff; hence the ugly, white, uncomfortable plastic ones strewn around the ward, provided there is actually one in the room when a patient and their loved one arrive.

My American-ess was front and center as I walked the hallways. My thoughts ran from: I’m blessed to live in a country with clean hospitals and wonderful doctors, to How can kids survive here??!!! As we sauntered to the other side of the ward, I wondered what the gentleman and his child felt about me after we left their room. I certainly was not gawking at the arrangements; it's just sad that this is what they have to deal with trying to save their child either from cancer or many other maladies raging in Ethiopia at that moment.

It was a gut punch like no other.



Photos: This was the only photo I was allowed to take in the hospital.


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