Discovering Healthcare in Ethiopia
After breaking her pelvis in a car accident, fortunes turn in the remote Ethiopian countryside
Those who know my work as an investigative journalist may wonder why it’s taken me so long to resume my career. Few of you know about the near tragedy that almost ended my life.
The oak tree that our car slammed into still reverberates in my mind. The accident happened on December 6, 2007 in a remote area of southern Ethiopia, far from civilized life as we know it. My husband and I had been in this African country as tourists, on one of our many adventures to third-world countries.
Desiring to learn more about the life of the primitive tribes, we hired a guide/driver and spent five days brandishing the narrow unpaved roadways, clogged with cattle and steaming with dust, while young boys stood by the edge, begging for plastic water bottles.
When the accident occurred, we were headed back to the capital, Addis Ababa. It would take us two days to reach the city.
I was lying down, in the back seat of the Toyota Land Cruiser, healing a sprained left foot, when our car veered off the road and slammed into an oak tree. It seemed like an eternity but was actually only a few minutes before a car stopped, offering to help. Writhing in pain, I was carried into their car. The driver, a Lutheran missionary from Norway, was a surgeon, on his way to Addis Ababa with his family.
It took us five hours to reach the nearest city. There at the local hospital, x-rays revealed I had fractured my pelvis in three places and was unable to walk. Fortunately my husband, a pharmacist, had taken along pain medication – there was none to be found at this remote hospital.
For the next two days the surgeon and his wife, a nurse, helped us. They found us housing, gave us food and prayed that we’d return safely home – carrying me from place to place as there were no wheelchairs.
Back in the capital, the surgeon gave me a shot of lovenox – blood thinning medication -- and handed my husband a syringe, telling him to give me another dose when we changed planes in Heathrow the following evening.
Back in Portland I spent five days at Providence Portland Hospital, and was given morphine and oxycodone to relieve the pain. I left the hospital with a walker and a commode. Physical therapists taught me how to walk again. It took me three months to regain my strength.
I never realized how close I came to dying until my orthopedic doctor asked if I had been given medicine against blood clots. Fortunately I had. Why were those shots so important? I asked the doctor. “Otherwise you’d probably be dead.” Later I learned that I had, in fact, bled internally from the crash.
Do you know the chances of a surgeon rescuing a woman with a broken pelvis in a remote area of Ethiopia? To me, he was an angel, and I’ll forever be grateful.
It’s impossible to pay back the kindness of this man. Instead my husband and I are helping support a young student in Addis Ababa who has a crippled mother and two younger siblings. In our hearts we know the surgeon would approve.
Now that I’ve fully recovered, I look forward to this new chapter in my life with the launch of The Lund Report.
Apr 7 2009