Tensaiyeh*

maregu 7

This is the story of one whom I’m sorry is not our son. The Australian government, I think for financial reasons would not countenance an adoption. They did give us a 6 months medical visa but we had to pay all expenses and he had to leave at the end of those few months.

He was run over by a train. His father was dead; his mother was cruel to him. I’ve seen the burn marks that she inflicted on his one remaining arm. He was a street kid, and I’ve no doubt a thief, a beggar and a bit of a rascal. He lived on the streets of the place I used to go to operate on Fridays. I’ve explained about Friday operating there before. I didn’t do his initial surgery but saw him on a Saturday morning round when he was just about to be discharged to be a street beggar again.

He had been operated on by a surgeon for whom I didn’t have the greatest regard. A boy to remember/a surgeon to forget.

Later the young boy told me that when trying to hitch a ride to a bigger town for better pickings, his friends who were pulling him onto the train let him slip and he fell under the slowly moving train. He lost both legs and his right arm. He told me later that when taken to the hospital he still had both knees, and his thumb and two fingers on his right hand. If you have to amputate it is a good thing to remember that the longer the stump the easier to use an artificial limb. And a few fingers can be very useful!

When I saw him that day both legs were amputated very high, and his right arm was amputated just below his elbow. He was in considerable pain because in his left leg stump the bone had not been smoothed, it was not covered with muscle and the sharp spike of bone was half way through the skin.

I took him home with me that day. It was interesting because he knew no English and my Amharic isn’t perfect by a long way. I asked him three questions,

Did he wake at night with night mares? The answer was ‘no’.

Did he need to pee at night? Asked, obviously, because I’d have to carry him to the toilet. He said ‘no’, which was usually correct.

Was he worried about the future? His answer surprised me. ‘No, there’s a God in heaven, He’ll look after me.’

On the trip back it rained a bit. When it stopped other traffic splattered dirt onto the front window so that I used the windscreen wipers and sprayed, as you do, water to clean them. He asked where the water was coming from. I told him that there were two little boys under the bonnet who peed when I told them to do so. He looked at me a bit shocked so I explained the reality. But I think it helped him to know that I was a real man, like his father used to be to him. We got on famously.

I remember his first bath. He’d never seen one or been in one. He clung to me as I lowered him in, screaming at the top of his voice. Having got in, and discovering it was warm and very pleasant he didn’t want to get out. We never had that problem again.

Soon he had to go back into hospital and have the bone in his left stump sorted out; of course, not at the same hospital.

The next while was a bit mixed up; he stayed with friends while we came back to Australia for my cancer surgery; then my wife returned to Ethiopia to finish the academic year teaching her grade 4 kids. Tenesaiyeh lived with my wife while she was there. We got a medical visa for him to come to Australia for artificial limbs. I had three years of troublesome, even if not overly serious, complications after my cancer surgery. So I had plenty of time to act as his personal chauffeur and physiotherapist while he got his prostheses made and began to use them. Before I had to take him back to Ethiopia he was slowly walking up and down stairs. He scooted around on a little skate board and used to love sitting in front of the TV conducting with Andre Rieu.

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It still sits under our TV set.

The local school allowed him to attend (this was new for him); he loved it and they were so good to and for him. He went around at school on his skateboard. I’m not sure how legal it was!

Australia wouldn’t let us adopt him but arrangements were made for him to be adopted into the USA. For legal reasons he had to spend time in an orphanage in Ethiopia before he could go to America. When I took him back, I spent a few days seeing him daily until I left to return home. He came to the airport with me and it took 2 people to pry him off me, for me to be able to leave. It was similar to getting him into the bath first time – except he didn’t enjoy the orphanage.

His new parents, for reasons I cannot fathom, soon found his prostheses too much problem and disposed of them. So he’s a wheelchair bound guy these days but a champion wheelchair Olympian. He’s a University student and we still correspond as ‘my American son’ and ‘my Aussie dad’. He tells me he wishes he had been allowed to stay here. So do I!

josh m
Although the hand was opening pair of hooks – he could use it well. The limbs were made to look much more normal after correct fittings were sorted out.
  • Tensaiyeh was not his name. It is used as a boy’s name and means ‘my resurrection’.

Dominic Cartier

5 thoughts on “Tensaiyeh*

      1. I know I would! I retired last year and worked with developmentally disabled adults. Two of the woman had cerebral palsy. Their bodies didn’t work but there is nothing wrong with their mind. It was the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

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