by David Kramer
On a recent trip to Ethiopia, eight doctors, three nurses and one physical therapist from the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem travelled on a weeklong medical mission to the city of Mekelle, in the African country’s north.
Led by Dr. Josh Schroeder, a spine surgeon at Hadassah and Dr. Allon Moses, the chairman of Hadassah’s Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease, the Israeli medical team performed five surgeries at the Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital. The hospital serves some eight million people but does not have a spine surgeon.
The Ethiopian patients, aged 18 and under, all suffered from twisted spines as a result of various spinal deformities and travelled from far-flung villages to receive the treatment in Mekelle. Their conditions were critical and were causing potentially lethal complications, including pressure on internal organs and lung infections. The Israeli doctors assessed that without surgery the patients might die within the year. The surgeries were complex, with some taking eight hours.
In addition to performing the five surgeries, the Israelis also provided medical training to Ayder staff. The medical device company Medtronic donated the equipment necessary for the surgeries. The Hadassah and Ayder hospitals have a partnership dating back many years, with Israeli medical students doing rotations in Mekelle, and Ayder physicians receiving training and supplies from Hadassah.
One of the nurses of the mission was Tsheay (Orna) Tadoses-Solomon, herself an immigrant to Israel from Ethiopia in the 1980s with Operation Moses. This was Tadoses-Solomon’s first time returning to Ethiopia, albeit under very different circumstances – today she is the deputy head nurse in the recovery room at Hadassah-University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.
Before conducting the surgeries the Israeli doctors fixed a mezuzah to the doorpost of the surgery room, as is traditional in all operating rooms in Israel, because as one of the doctors said, It’s a branch of Hadassah in Israel. In the end, all five surgeries were successful and within the week the Ethiopian teenagers were able to stand upright and start walking.