Ethiopian Journal 6-16-11
Linda Johnson’s journals from Ethiopia. See part 1 for more information.
After nearly 3 days of frustration, Dick was finally able to fly to Rome to meet his wife. He did a
remarkable job of being productive while he was here for the extra days, but I could feel his strong desire to leave.
On Tuesday we went to the morning doctors meeting, then I went to the Nehemiah Autism Center to meet with Meseret and help her set up the
administrative functions at the school. She lacks self-confidence, but she is incredibly smart and has a great deal of inner wisdom and strength. Mostly we talked about the challenges of managing staff, and she had some great perspectives. When I was stressing the
need for regular feedback to staff, both positive and identifying areas of improvement, we both agreed that this is often very hard to confront when we’d really rather let it slide. She told me an old Ethiopian proverb that fits the situation perfectly, so I’m sharing it
with you to think about. The saying goes like this: “A lazy sheepherder lets his flock scatter, but the wise one keeps them close.” We spent several hours discussing how to prepare historical information for her accountant and the auditor, what kinds
of information to keep in student files, but mostly she needed to talk about her uncertainty about dealing with employees.
We had the usual coffee while we talked, and had a delightful morning. I felt that my biggest contribution was to reinforce for her that she knew how to do this and she would do great. I received a very warm thank you and hug as I left.
After lunch, Dick and I worked on the MOU for the hydrocephalus program. In the afternoon, I went to the spa for a manicure and pedicure, and Dick got a massage. After we returned, Dick discovered that his journal was missing so we frantically tried to retrace steps to the spa, the
travel agency, and the hospital to no avail. When we returned home, he found it in his bathroom. I guess the massage
had a powerful effect on him.
After a wonderful dinner to celebrate our progress, we put Dick on the shuttle to the plane at 10:00 p.m.
The ride home from the airport was very quiet.
This morning, Elizabeth and I went to the doctor’s meeting, and I connected with Dr. Hagos to see where we were with finalizing the MOU.
While I stood there, he contacted Dr. Muluwork (chair of pediatrics) to make sure she was comfortable with donating the shunts. When he got off the phone, he told me that she was enthusiastic in her support of our program and that she would donate
shunts. He then told me to print out the MOU and he would sign it. Success!!!! I finally accomplished what I came here to do—to finalize an agreement to perform shunt operations for babies on the waiting list. I only wish Dick had been here to celebrate the fruits of his hard work
to make this happen.
At 8:30 a.m. Elizabeth and I went to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, started 50 years ago by a married couple of doctors who dedicated
their lives to providing treatment for this devastating condition. Many young girls in the rural areas are married off to older men when they are about 12, and they become pregnant while they are still growing teens. Often their birth canals are not large enough, or they are mis-shapen, so the baby can’t fit through. Only 18% of women in Ethiopia have an attendant at birth, either a midwife or doctor. The remaining 82% deliver at home by themselves. In the rural area, a woman may go into labor and if the baby is stuck may be in labor for 5 to 7
days. When the woman decides that she needs help, it is sometimes a 2 day walk to a clinic. When she gets there, if the midwife
identifies that the baby is stuck, then the woman is sent by public transportation to a hospital that may be 6 hours away or more. When the woman finally arrives at the hospital, the baby is almost always dead, and often the mother dies too. The doctor performs either a c-section or
other operation to remove the baby. Because the baby’s head has been pressing on her vaginal tissues for days, cutting off the circulation, the tissue dies and leaves a fistula, or opening between either the vagina and the bladder, or the vagina and the colon/rectum. Either urine or stool then drain freely out of her body, and she has a foul odor. She is grieving the loss of here baby, and then her husband and family usually reject her. If they are kind they may build her a separate shack out in the back yard of her home. She is shunned by her village and not allowed to visit neighbors, friends, stores, or to go anywhere. Many women sit in their shacks for years, developing contractures of their legs for lack of walking. The isolation and rejection is too much for many, and they commit suicide. The Hamlin Fistula Hospital provides free care to all, which usually means surgical intervention and physical therapy, as well as emotional and psychological support, help with education and learning a trade, and assistance with returning to their families to live a full life.
The grounds of the hospital were absolutely beautiful—lush tropical flowers, clean stone paths, beautiful white buildings, and compassionate staff. As we wandered through the campus to meet with the CEO, I found myself unexpectedly emotional as I absorbed the love and beauty that exemplified this place. I could not imagine how it must feel to come from a situation with the devastation that the women feel, to walk into beauty and love—what this must do for their emotional bodies is profound. I could really feel that the healing begins at the very moment that they walk through the gate, and it was powerful energy. I was overwhelmed with compassion and gratitude for the work that the founders and staff have done, and the transformation they are making in this country.
After lunch, I finished up the MOU and chased down Dr. Hagos for a signature. Then I spent a lovely
hour having tea with Barbara Pearson, the wife of Dr. Pearson. The afternoon was a much slower pace than I
have experienced since I arrived, and I liked it. And, I felt extremely happy at the milestone accomplishment of a signed MOU. Woo hoo!
I joined Sophie and Elizabeth for more Korean food here at the guesthouse where we are staying, and we decided to go see a movie
tonight. The change of scenery was good medicine for us all; we saw “The Hangover 2”, a completely frivolous yet funny film. Now
I’m tucked into bed with a smile on my face and a feeling of accomplishment. Tomorrow I get to talk to Fletcher, and I’ve only got 4 more days until I leave. I’m beginning the transition, and am starting to look forward to the next step in my journey.