Our first case of the day was a 17-year-old female with a major thoracic curve. As was our routine, while the patient was being prepped and draped, we reviewed all the films and our surgical planning. The surgery involved fusion and instrumentation from T4 to T12. The surgery went very well. Then came time to do our second patient, but unfortunately she showed up to the hospital with a fever. So that case had to be canceled. She was admitted for fever workup. At that moment we decided to admit all the patients that were going to have surgery for the rest of our mission to the hospital so if in case one patient had to be canceled, there will be somebody else right away able to take his or her place.
Since we just found some free time, we decided to take a trip to a few tourist sites. The first place was a Coptic Church. Since Dr. Samy was a Coptic Christian from Egypt, we actually got a pretty good tour of that church. Then we drove up this big hill to look at a castle that was behind a church. But it was not meant to be. The place was closed already. We then took a trip to a museum. We saw Lucy who is a 3.2 billion year old fossil of a pretty short woman. We saw a partial fossil of Ardi who is a link between chimpanzees and humans. I also learned that Ethiopia was ruled by many kings until 1975. During World War II, Italy conquered it and took a significant number of artifacts, especially those related to the monarchies. After the return of those artifacts, they were placed in this museum. It was very interesting and informative.
We were all astounded by the level of poverty. It is very common to see blocks of land walled off by metal walls as a fence. Inside these areas are shacks where people live right next to animals. There is no running water or electricity. People carry heavy loads on their backs. If they were slightly wealthier, they would use donkeys. Lots of homeless people also sleep in the street. On the other hand, as we drove by one of the universities, we saw a number of people who were well dressed and obviously had much better financial situation. I learned very quickly that there is almost no middle-class here. They are either rich or really poor. After their last emperor was overthrown in 1975, Ethiopia became like a communist country. The level of prosperity fell off very quickly. As an example, they built a new Hilton Hotel in 1969. The government took it over in 1975. It retains the Hilton name because it continues to have Hilton management. But there has not been any upgrades since 1975 since that is the responsibility of the government. Needless to say, we did not go there. It is also very congested. About 6 million residents live in a city with a diameter of about 35 km (approximately 20 miles)!
The good news is that there is a tremendous amount of new money coming into Ethiopia. There is a lot of construction all around. Most of these were not present when Dr. Ibrahim came here a year ago. We learned that a significant portion of the constructions is bankrolled by the Chinese.