The following is post I began in Ethiopia when I was there in August, but never got around to posting. The subject is Rick Hodes, an American doctor who has been living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where, for over thirty years, he has treated extremely pathological patients who have nowhere else to turn.
August 26, 2018.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
I had a very interesting day shadowing Dr. Rick Hodes at his clinic in Addis Ababa. The clinic, which is the only one of its kind in Ethiopia, provides free services and sees patients from all over the country. Dr. Hodes, an American doctor who has been working in Ethiopia since the 1980s, primarily specializes in spinal disorders but treats patients with a variety of conditions.
Having beforehand described his practice to me as “extremely pathological,” to wit, the day I visited the clinic, one of the patients I encountered was Bekelel (19) (below), who had come from village in the countryside to see Dr. Hodes about a severe spinal deformity. This young man, who Dr. Hodes described as “very unfortunate,” claimed not to experience any pain from his condition but yet presented with a nearly 90 degree curve in his spine—a “table-top spine,” as Dr. Hodes describes spines that are so flat that one could balance a glass of water. Such deformities can serious impede the function of the lungs and other vital organs, necessitying intervention forthwith. A CAT scan of Beelel’s torso revealed that he was additionally burdened with ankylosis (fusion of the vertebrae) and bones so porous they looked like igneous rock. Despite his decades of experience seeing the worst of disfigurments, Dr. Hodes remarked that he had never observed bone denstity quite like this and determined to consult with colleagues in the U.S about Bekelel’s case. This issue could complicate intervention efforts. Dr. Hodes wanted to see Bekelel again in several days; as he does for many of his patients, he arranged for Bekelel to stay in home, which at any time is filled with a number of deformed Ethiopians. He has formally adopted some of his patients so that they could receive treatment in the U.S. Most of the severe spine patients go on to receive surgery in Ghana. All their transport and medical costs are fully funded by the clinic through its partner, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Such is a day in the life of Dr. Hodes.
Dr. Hode’s work is the subject of the HBO documentary “Making the Crooked Straight” as well as the book “This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes” by Marilyn Berger. His website [https://rickhodes.org] includes a very interesting blog detailing his cases in words, photographs, and medical imagery. Tax-Deductible donations can also be made through the website. A relatively small dollar amount can go a long way in Africa.