As planned, we went back to Ethiopia in October. This time, we had an even bigger team and a couple of substitutions. The core of our team stayed the same, namely Drs. Ibrahim, Samy, and Dr. Yazdi as well as Stephanie and Francis who are Dr. Ibrahim’s nurses in Chicago. Additions included Dr. Firoz Miyanji who is a pediatric orthopedic spine surgeon and the head of the department of spinal surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC and Dr. Supraya (Praya) Singh who is in her last year of orthopedic residency in Toronto and will be Dr. Miyanji’s fellow next July.
Julie was our monitoring technician, and Lauren was the Nuvasive representative responsible for instrumentation inventory. We were also accompanied by Nic who is the new head of Nuvasive Spine Foundation (NSF). His job in a nutshell is to make sure that all the international volunteer locations that Nuvasive supports are well equipped. He actually has a busy job. After staying with us in Ethiopia, he was traveling to other countries in Africa before heading home.
This time, our mission was not to only perform complex spinal surgeries, but also to bring a smile to as many faces as possible. Julie, Lauren, and Praya would routinely go to the orthopedic ward and visit the children. Dr. Miyanji also brought a large box full of books and toys which with their help, he distributed to the kids. The smile on the faces of those kids was priceless. Dr. Miyanji also gave lectures about scoliosis to the orthopedic residents, which was much appreciated.
Surgically, we were able to accomplish a great deal. We performed more cases than last time, and these were much more complex. We performed one VCR in May; four this time. VCR is vertebral column resection which is where we remove a substantial part of an entire vertebra in order to realign the spine. This is an extremely complex procedure. We also performed surgeries on two acute and one chronic severe trauma patients who presented with significant neurological loss. Thank God, they all showed signs of improvement.
This time we were much more accustomed to the lack of traffic signals, crazy driving conditions, donkeys all over the place, and people living in shacks. There is a lot of money coming into Ethiopia especially in the area of construction. Hopefully it will make a difference in the lives of the general population as well. Overall, it was a very rewarding trip. We look forward to doing it again next year.