Addis Ababa debrief

It’s been a few days since my return from Addis Ababa and I find that my mind is still filled with a myriad of details.  As I write this “debrief” of my trip, I am hoping these remembrances of Ethiopia will stay with me indefinitely.

Mr. Sillypants here, hoping to share a few more thoughts related to my experiences at Addis Ababa University.  I’ve been home two days, long enough to bask in the sublime joys of Ms. Plum, Blueberry, Twinkletoes and our absolutely wild Golden Doodle, but not long enough to completely throw off my jetlag.

To say that our trip was fulfilling is a huge understatement.  I went with three other doctors, numbering two Family Physicians and one Pediatrician.  I was the sole physician from a local non-profit cooperative while the other three are faculty at University of Madison in Wisconsin.  We three Family Physicians were teach Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO) whereas our pediatrician taught Neonatal Resuscitation for Providers (NRP).  (That’s it for the accounting phase of this post, I promise.)
I’ve talked about the great skill of the obstetricians and midwives in Ethiopia in previous posts.  However, it really can’t be understated; these providers in Ethiopia are very skilled and very dedicated.  They work amazingly long hours for days on end in surroundings which most Western physicians would refuse.  Yet, they work on, day after day, answering the call.
Frankly, the numbers are simply staggering:
– in the US, 99.5% of women delivery babies under the care of a medical professional;
– in Mexico, the percentage falls slightly to 96%;
– worldwide, women are under the care of a medical professional during childbirth about 60% of the time;
– in Ethiopia, it takes place a dismal 5% of the time.
Said another way, only 1 in 20 deliveries occur with a trained medical professional at hand.  That includes general practictioners, obstetricians or midwives.  It is no wonder why Ethiopia ranks as 6th worst in neonatal mortality.  Their training is excellent; they simply don’t have enough people to meet the need.
However, the overworked, overstressed medical professionals still do what they can, putting in long hours for weeks on end to try and “stem the tide.”
Frankly, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the medical need in Ethiopia.  Yet, the people we worked with are generous, hopeful and pragmatic, doing what they can, day by day.
The physicians and midwives we worked with were very happy to have tools which they, in turn, will teach to others to help meet the need for trained medical professionals in Ethiopia.  They listened intently, eagerly participated in lectures and workshops, asked excellent and thought-provoking questions and then left AAU, returning to their communities to try again and “stem the tide.”
These people are heroes.
I arrived home to gaze upon my beloved Ms. Plum, feeling my heart skip a beat as she came into view.  I felt my knees go weak as Blueberry said, “Hi Daddy!” in the happiest voice I have ever heard.  I had a moment to reflect, once again, on the mysteries and blessings that I still take for granted each and every day.
I thought about the miracle of Blueberry and countless other children who are equally miraculous, starting life and somehow surviving and even thriving against all odds.  I thought of those who are not so fortunate, who don’t survive, whose families experience heartache and loss, whose suffering could possibly be averted if the world’s resources and priviledge were distributed in a fair manner.
I think of the medical people in Ethiopia, who learn what they can and find a way to return to their labors, hoping they will continue to make a difference in a place of poverty and need.  And, I think that I have a lot to learn about service to others.

3 responses to “Addis Ababa debrief

  1. Thank you for your "debrief" post. The statistics are staggering…especially when you consider many of the childbearing women are still teens whose growth has been stunted by malnutrition:( Thanks again for your work and for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for your post (I found your blog through Tressa)…as a CNM and adoptive mom, your statistics are truly heartbreaking. I can't tell you how many times I look at my daughter in amazement…the hurdles she overcame just to be alive today. Thank you for going and doing important work in Ethiopia. It was inspirational to read about your trip.

  3. Pingback: Anatomy of a Party | Under The Acacia Tree

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