When I have not much to do, which is more often than it should be, I love looking through old photos and reliving experiences. Today’s picture could have been taken in any of the cities in which we lived in Ethiopia. I’ve tried to mark some things which reflect the economy of the land, and I comment on them. Remember that the population is still about 85% rural which tends to be poorer than the cities.
You can see the tall unmarked pole, which is either a telephone (unlikely) or an electricity one. But you cannot see any connections to any of the dwellings. It is passing through to a richer area, and there are some very rich areas!
The pink arrow points to a water tank. There are no gutters visible. There is a water distribution throughout the city but it is frequently not available, so when you can, you fill up a reservoir against those times.
The red hexagons mark the different standards of roofing, some of which are virtually non existent. They have periods of very heavy rains.
The purple arrow marks an example of child labour. Sheets of iron are being put onto the roof.He is obviously a teenager but often you see little kids carrying far too heavy loads and with great responsibility – often carrying babies on their backs or with loads of wood on their backs.
The red arrow shows the outlet above the communal toilet. People often shower over the toilet or under a spray in the open. From personal experience you try to not need ‘to go’ when visiting these places!
The blue arrow marks a group of ladies in community. You can see their beautiful white teeth, as grinning they look up to where I am taking a photo.
The white arrow indicates their love of cleanliness in the midst of difficult circumstances.Their white clothes are sparkling!
I’m writing this because I read yesterday of the 150 children kidnapped from a school in Nigeria. This is one of many such attacks with about 1,000 children in all being taken since December last year. Some, a minority, have been released. That is mind-boggling and I’m surprised that that it doesn’t provoke international ire and offered help to the Nigerian Government for help. Such help may of course have been offered and rejected. Some of the pictures I have seen from before indicate that some taken were Muslims. The latest school attacked was the Bethel Baptist School.
In Australia as doctors we have to be very careful. It is difficult for medical students to get into watch a child being examined without parental or guardian permission. As a doctor I am not allowed into an operating room without special registration with each individual hospital, even with adults being operated on. This is a long way away from the old system where operating rooms had mezzanine floors built so that many students and other doctors could watch and learn.
It reminded me of a medical student from Australia visiting us in Ethiopia for an elective term, who told me that I dare not treat children with the affection that I did there, if I was in Australia.
You can see that this poor kid has lost an arm. We had at least one case a week of cases like this. This occurred rarely because of an accident but ususlly because with a fracture (I guess we could call that an accident!) but that had been badly managed by a local healer who bound the limb, leg or arm so tightly that it caused gangrene.
This young guy had been kept at home until his leg dropped off. You can see how flexed his hip is. He was so weak that we had train him to stand up again, initially by holding him. We did make wooden legs initially and later there were prosthetic limbs available.
You can see the scar on this boy’s head. He was in ICU and with a very low GCS (a count of severity of head injury) and the nursing staff wanted to put him in the ward as they were sure that he would die. I resisted and although he had a few problems (he was nearly blind), he survived and he loved me and would come running to me whenever he heard my steps. Should I have held him and tickled him? His dad was so happy that he lived!
I may show a copy of some gross pictures of suffering in my medical memoirs blog but here sufficient to say that I treated a thousand or more kids and they all needed medical, emotional and often physical loving. My heart bleeds for those taken in Nigeria and their families, but this is a worldwide problem. Let’s give all the help we can!
I certainly didn’t expect to see this picture when I opened my computer this afternoon. But there it was straight in front of me.
It’s not the best quality picture but it holds lots of memories.
Our only daughter was born when we were home on furlough in Australia but then we returned to our work in a mission hospital, where I was a surgeon. For our daughter’s sake I had better not tell which year it was, as ladies are so conscious of their ages. It was however well over 40 years ago. She is as lovely and beautiful a daughter as anyone could wish for.
The young man, a late teenager, was employed as a gardener but took on the role of her constant carer and companion. He loved her heaps.
One morning he arrived late for work and we asked if he had had his breakfast. He hadn’t, so we asked him to eat with us. We were having fried tomatoes and onions on toast. He ate it all but then said something I will never forget. ‘You foreigners don’t like all our food. Now I understand why. That was terrible.’ Innocent lovable honesty.
He had tuberculosis of his neck glands that responded to treatment’
We attended his marriage some years later. He has a lovely wife and beautiful children. Sadly one shortly after graduating from University died.
He’s still alive but has known tribal persecution and suffered several major health problems, but is still a man I’m delighted to call a friend.
All that flashed through my mind from just seeing a poor quality old photo. I loved the kid, loved the man and his family and still even in his relative old age think very fondly of him.
Don’t you wish that you had a better memory. I have a terrible memory for names and it gets me into trouble. My wife accuses me sometimes of not being interested in people. But that’s not true. I understand why it frustrates her and when we meet up with people we’ve not seen for a while she has learnt to say to me ‘Dominic you remember ….?’ The stock answer is obviously ‘Of course I do! So lovely to meet you again.’ Unfortunately, if I’m not very careful I’ve forgotten almost immediately. Not that I’ve forgotten the person, only the name and I can go on chatting about past memories, but not using names! Well, in truth, it’s not quite as bad as that but you understand. On the other hand hand I have little trouble remembering the events of our previous getting to know each other.
Don’t you think she’s beautiful? I do. Don’t you think that she’s skinny? I do. Besides her malnutrition can you pick her diagnosis? We have a lady come in every second Friday afternoon to help a bit. She is a nurses aid. So I showed her the picture and asked her what was wrong with the girl. She said ‘you mean apart from her being malnourished?’ She is pretty skinny but I don’t think is actually malnourished but certainly a bit underweight. But look at her left shoulder. I’ll bet that there was more than 100 cc of pus in that abscess. From the way she is sitting leaning on her elbow I’d be surprised if it is a pyo-arthritis; more likely an abscess in her deltoid muscle. Still pretty painful but not as bad as if there is pus in the joint. And it looks as if the glands are affected in her axilla.
I know how it hurts to get ‘bitten’ by a rose thorn. And if dad or mum couldn’t get it out, a child in our land would be taken to the hospital emergency or the doctor’s surgery. They obviously were not the poorest of the poor, (look at that pretty pillow), but even so she didn’t turn up at the hospital until the abscess was this size.
Seriously thank God and the government and a slowly changing attitude to illness, things are a lot better than they were fifty years ago. But the need in Ethiopia and many countries is still huge. At least momentarily it makes you wonder if you or I can make any useful difference. Our grandkids and great grandkids have already so much more than we did or our kids did when we/they were young. So we have (except when they are very small) stopped giving presents. So for Christmas in all their names we give a larger gift to an organization who we believe we can trust to deliver aid on the ground. For birthdays we tend to give smaller gifts in the person’s name to a worthy cause – and there are so many of them around. Do any of you have good suggestions to pass on? If so please let us know.
Cain years ago try to fob God off when he was asked a question about his brother Abel (whom you might remember he had murdered) by saying ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Well I’m not going to run around wringing my hands because I can’t solve every problem, but the question is thought provoking.
Do you ever watch ‘Morse’ on Television? Have you noticed that the main actor Morse (John Thaw) has a ‘dropped foot’ on the right? As a doctor you tend to spot diseases. And one day I saw this guy standing on the road side.
The gum trees came from Australia.
You can deduce that we are driving on a high plain and in the distance, after a valley unseen for the cloud that fills it, is another mountain range. Going to Jimma from Addis you pass through several mountain range.
The ground looks fertile.
The old man isn’t standing up very straight. His knees are bent and his crutches don’t go up to fit nicely under his arms.
He’s obviously thumbing a ride. I can’t see a house anywhere near, and he is not at a designated bus stop. So I wonder how long he’s waited and to where does he want to go. It’s a long hard walk to any clinic in the area.
Either he’s got a bad medical practitioner who doesn’t know how to set up his crutches correctly or he’s got some nasty orthopaedic problem. His knees are bent; his back is bent over, but if they both were straightened out his crutches would be long way too short. I am most unlikely to know his language as this is a different tribal area. He looks a bit scruffy – see that patch on his knee? He probably has a different scent but most likely BO. I think we could make room for him but the kids would have to be squashed up. We’re in a bit of a hurry, and someone says ‘we’re running late already’. Look carefully – he is human. Wife says ‘well, are you going to give him a ride?’ Should I have?