Questions & Answers: Ethiopia
This week, Dr. Jeremy Gabrysch and his son, Nate, are traveling to Ethiopia to distribute nearly 500 pounds of medical equipment and medicine to the doctors and staff at Soddo Christian Hospital, where Dr. Jeremy served as Chief Medical Officer for three and a half years.
Remedy has committed to donating a portion of our proceeds to support the hospital and we’re hand delivering our first set of supplies. This equipment will help patients in one of the poorest countries in the world get the treatment they need to live healthy lives.
Prior to his departure, Dr. Gabrysch took some time to explain why Ethiopia is so special to him.
What drew you to Ethiopia in the first place? Why did you decide to serve as the Chief Medical Officer at Soddo?
Our son is adopted from Ethiopia, so, naturally, we felt a connection to that country. We had been doing relief work in Africa for many years, but we wanted to serve for a longer period of time. We also wanted our son to live in his birth country for part of his childhood. Soddo Christian Hospital was a new non-profit hospital and in need of administrative help. Although I initially went to head up the Emergency Department, the role of directing the medical care for the whole hospital came to me rather quickly. I have always loved leading and developing structure, so this position was a natural fit with my passions and abilities.
What was your experience like when you worked there? How did the facilities compare to the US? How did you and your colleagues approach medicine in a such a troubled country?
The experience in Soddo was nothing less than exhilarating. Every day, we faced new challenges – an empty blood bank with no way to give patients blood, not enough beds to admit the patients who needed it, a lack of lifesaving medications for particular illnesses we encountered. The challenges were endless. For as difficult as the challenges were, the impact was even more amazing. We saved bleeding postpartum mothers who would have died without our intervention. We had children with malaria and tuberculosis who would have succumbed to their disease had we not treated them. We had one of the only CT scanners in the country to detect disease and act on it. There was daily heartache and loss, and there was regular celebration over lives saved.
Who are the people of Ethiopia? What did you take from them during your time there?
The people of Ethiopia are incredibly resilient and resourceful. Naturally, I am biased, because my son is from there! Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that was never colonized. They are proud of that, and the “Westerner-as-savior” doesn’t go over well there. It shouldn’t. Ethiopians are incredibly smart and gifted people. I was proud to call many of them my colleagues while I lived and worked there. We worked together on the problems we faced. I would never demean them and put myself in a position over them. I am so proud of the Ethiopian physicians and staff that work so hard to save lives among their people.
What is the demand like for supplies and medicine?
In places like Ethiopia, standard medical equipment is not readily available. For example, when someone has a badly fractured bone, we put a rod into the bone to set it in the normal position. These stainless steel rods are not complex, but they aren’t available in Africa. Organizations like SIGN donate the rods for use in developing countries (including Ethiopia) and that helps. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Things like endotracheal tubes, which we use to breathe for people during surgery, or chest tubes that drain life-threatening infections out of the lungs can’t be purchased from a local supplier in Africa. So Remedy will purchase these materials for Soddo and deliver them so they can keep doing what they’re doing day after day – administering life-sustaining care like any of our patients in Austin would get.
What supplies is Remedy taking?
We’re taking stainless steel rods for fracture repair and chest drains for life threatening lung infections like TB and trauma. We’re taking a very nice new ultrasound unit. We’re also taking intra-osseous needles, which are like IVs that are put into the bone to save someone’s life when an IV cannot be obtained. We’ll be donating surgical equipment as well, like suction machines and electro-cautery tools that are used in surgery as a superior alternative to scalpels.
Dr. Jeremy and Nate will be in Soddo from June 20-25. You can check up on the trip yourself, as Dr. Jeremy will be doing a live webcast from the hospital via Facebook on Wed, June 22 at 9 a.m. Texas time.