Another day, another major surgery. This patient was a 25-year-old female who had a double major curve. This was a similar situation to our first patient: however, she was older, and her spine was stiffer. The treatment was very similar, T4-L4 fusion and instrumentation and SPO’s (Smith-Peterson osteotomies where we remove a portion of the posterior part of the vertebrae, so it can become more flexible) as needed.
We were invited out to dinner to an Italian restaurant. We met a number of people associated with St. Paul’s Hospital system including the CEO, Dr. Zerihun Abebe. After a short time, we started talking about healthcare in Ethiopia versus the United States. He was very interested in Obamacare, how it was supposed to be, and the reasons behind its apparent failure. He seemed to understand very well why nobody in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s who were in good health would want to pay for healthcare for the people and their 60s, 70s, and 80s. He also understood that the significant majority of people who are making good choices in their lives did not really want to supplement the healthcare of those who have been negligent for most of their lives. We also discussed some of the main points against a single-payer system in the United States. It was a very interesting conversation about healthcare in general. He was very well informed. Dr. Hodes was also present. He is so well known throughout Ethiopia that anybody who needs to have any type of major spine treatment, goes to him. We talked about what it would take to help set up a spine registry in Ethiopia and be able follow these patients. He sees about 400 new patients per year with spinal deformity. Some of those patients can be treated by groups like us who come to Ethiopia. However, due to limited resources, the most complicated patients are sent to Dr. Boachie and his team in Ghana at an average cost of $20,000 per patient. An example of the type of patients he receives is someone with a major thoracic curve of 180°. The patients would need to go to Ghana with a relative. Patients are placed in spine traction for anywhere between 2 ½ to 6 months. When the spine finally straightens to a reasonable position, then he and his team will perform surgery. Dr. Hodes actually pays the cost for the patient and a relative to go to Ghana. He does so because of the kindness of people throughout the world either directly funding him or setting up fundraisers for him. He is having one such fundraising event in Chicago next month and another one in Vancouver some time later.
On the drive back to the hotel, we passed by a couple of nice streets where there seemed to be some nightlife. This was a big contrast to what we see during most of our drive back and forth to the hospital. It’s also a big contrast compared to the main market where it would not be safe for us to go after 4 PM.