PictureOur Tuesday night celebration dinner was wonderful.  “This is what heaven will be like,” was said by many of us as we looked around the room seeing the entire Dessie family seated around the table.  We enjoyed a tasty meal and some very encouraging words for the North American and Ethiopian churches.  Most inspiring however were the words of two of our team – our lab technician and one of our drivers.  Both had been touched by the love shown to them, the inclusion, and the cooperative spirit of everyone involved in the CHE project.  Their heartfelt encouragement and joy in being part of the team carried the night and was on everyone’s mind as we prepared for a very busy Wednesday.

PictureWednesday morning came early for part of the team: Mulaku, Dr. Bob, Michal Ann and Charon left early for Addis in 2 land cruisers loaded down with the team’s personal and equipment bags.  Theirs was to be a grueling 12 hour drive on mostly unpaved roads.  The remainder of the team drove to Kembolcha for the flight down to Addis courtesy of Abyssinian Airlines.  We met the plane on the dirt strip and negotiated the ‘payment’ of the airstrip guards there – without their assistance in getting the sheep and cows off the airstrip, we would have a very difficult time taking off.  After an uneventful takeoff, we enjoyed another beautiful flight to Addis over breathtaking canyons and plains. The Blue Nile River was just to our west and the Rift valley off to the east.

From Bole airport in Addis, we drove to the SIM house in to meet up with the Addis team.  The reunion was joyful and each team celebrated the work of the other.  The particular experiences were different between the teams yet the joy and fulfillment in service was common to all and remained the focus of our discussions and sharing.  After a wonderful lunch, we went to the Addis Fistula Hospital which has been featured in ‘A Walk to Beautiful’ and by Oprah Winfrey.

PictureObstetric fistulas are commonplace in the developing world.  They are abnormal connections between the bladder and vagina, rectum and vagina or both in very complicated cases.  They occur in situations of prolonged labor – sometimes more than 5 days – during which the baby’s head crushes the tissues of the vaginal wall and bladder against the pelvic bones.  The same occurs in the back wall of the vagina when the tissues are crushed against the tailbone.  The result is the dying away of the crushed tissues and an abnormal communication left between the involved structures. This means there is uncontrollable drainage of urine, feces, or both.  The baby usually doesn’t survive the prolonged labor. If the mother does, she is left with a physical malady as well as severely negative psychological and social sequelae: she will become an outcast from the society due to the odors, drainage, and perceived curse from having a fistula.  The Addis Fistula Hospital exists for one reason: to help these women free of charge.  The women find their way to the hospital, sometimes a harrowing journey from the outlying villages.  Once there, they will receive nutritional support, physical therapy, an attempt at surgical repair, monitored recovery and skills training (reading, writing, tradecrafts and basic knowledge of their legal rights as women) prior to their return to their villages.  There is a 98.4% success rate in their surgeries.  It was an inspiring visit and the entire team left very changed from how they were only 2 hours before the visit.  For more information on the fistula hospital, check out www.fistulafoundation.org.

We then arrived at the Oasis for a time of retreat and preparation for our return to western culture.

view from the roof of the Oasis
courtyard of the Oasis