When I entered the country here in Ethiopia on August 18th I became #326 – actually it might be #327 – or #330 – but the most recent data says #326. “What the heck is #326?!?” you say. I’m the 326thOB/GYN to be currently practicing in Ethiopia. For a country of 110 million people. In comparison, Alabama has a fraction of our population, 4.8 million, and it has almost 500 OB/GYN’s – a State that’s 4% the size of Ethiopia. And of our 327 OB/GYN’s here, as far as I know, I’m the 4thfrom outside the country. So the needs here are great, and in many ways overwhelming, but it’s such a privilege to be here and to serve here!
I really loved the first 20 years of my career – 20 years in an amazing private practice in Birmingham with great doctors, nurses, staff and patients. And after 20 years there was the occasional unusual case or situation – but things were definitely in a routine and I was familiar with 99% of the things that I dealt with on a daily basis.
During this “second half” of my career here in Ethiopia… not so much routine and familiar. At.All. And I love this part of being here. I see things that I’ve only read about in medical school or residency- and sometimes things that I’ve never even heard of. I was blessed to have an amazing education at Indiana University and then at the Medical University of South Carolina. They weren’t particularly preparing me for medicine in Africa – but they managed to teach and instill the things that I’ve needed to practice here in this amazing place. And for that I am SO grateful!
One of the main things we deal with here is something called “pelvic prolapse.” To spare y’all too much detail – it’s when a woman’s pelvic organs decide that they’re tired of staying up where they’re supposed to be and they literally “fall down.” In America this happens but people come in right away when it’s mild and there are many ways to address it. Here these sweet women have been “living” with it for 3, 5, 10 or more years. And it makes life extremely hard. Hard to work, hard to do basic bodily functions, hard to have a normal relationship with their husband. At one of our outlying clinics, in just 2 clinic days they identified 25 women who have this problem and are waiting for me to do surgery. We’re currently seeing and operating on 4 per week and by the time we’re done helping this group, I’m sure there will be many more waiting to be helped. Probably a third of the surgeries that we do here are for that specific reason.
Another big concern here medically is infertility. In Ethiopia having children is VERY important. Important to help with the family farm or business, and in helping the parents as they become older. And polygamy is fairly common in this area and to the south. So if a woman is not able to have children, there is a good chance that her husband will divorce her. And a divorced woman has a tough time marrying again and has some social stigma that makes life difficult for her. So many of our patient visits involve this area and we do what we can to help them achieve a pregnancy.
There are lots of unusual things I see and I’m constantly reading and researching about them. There are a lot of infections that affect the population here and we’re regularly dealing with HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, syphilis, etc. Then there are the just plain weird things that I see:
–A charming 45 year old woman was referred from another hospital with what’s called a molar pregnancy. It’s a weird deal where pregnancy tissue just goes crazy in growing out of control and it can eventually turn into cancer. These cases are very rare in America – especially being 4 months along like she was. We were able to successfully treat her with surgery and the chances of it turning into a cancer are very small.
–Another young woman was very nauseated early in her pregnancy and was throwing-up a lot. So much so that she… ruptured her esophagus. I wasn’t even aware that this was possible in pregnancy. Fortunately the rupture was small and she got better and is doing well.
–Most women in America get an ultrasound very early in their pregnancy. Here… not so much. Most women have never had one. We had a patient who came in at 26 weeks for her first visit and they called me because they thought there was more than one baby… and there were… THREE. She found out at 26 weeks that she’s having triplets. So far so good for her and please say a prayer that she and her babies do well during the rest of the pregnancy.
As you can imagine, I have more stories than I can tell at one time and I’ll try and write occasionally about some of these. But my days here are constantly filled with amazing patients with interesting and challenging problems. Some of these we’re able to help with. Some we are not. But we do all we can in the name of Christ and know that He is the great physician and able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than I ever could. I’m glad someone has my back.
As y’all already know we are serving here and missionaries and we’re so thankful to those who continue to support us. If you’re interested in giving then please click on the link below: