Miner's TB

For almost six months, Kefyalow has been receiving care at our hospital. Barely in his 30’s, this nine-year veteran of the gold mines in the Sidamo Region was brought to Soddo Christian Hospital by his family because he was struggling to breathe. Even though Kefyalow’s family had long ago depleted their meager resources obtaining health care in his hometown of Humbo, 25 km from Soddo, it was torture watching their loved one cough and slowly suffocate at home. Desperate for help, praying for relief, they brought him to us.

Unfortunately, Kefyalow has silicosis, an irreversible lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica.  One of the nicknames of this condition is “Miner’s TB.” His lungs are so severely scarred from inhaling particulates of this toxic mineral that he cannot breathe without intranasal oxygen. We’ve tried. He’s tried. But the verdict is clear – Kefyalow must have supplemental oxygen to live.

Kefyalow is young. He has a wife. He has a daughter, age 5, and a son, age 1. Every day he is in the hospital, he is separated from the people who love him and need him the most. He may have a terminal disease, but he has a lot of living and loving and teaching left to do. He longs to be at home, but his life is tethered to a 130-lb oxygen cylinder next to his bed at the hospital.

But there’s a solution! You can partner with us to purchase a portable oxygen concentrator and generator for Kefyalow’s use at home. The total cost is $3,000. If you would like to help this young father return home to his family, then please make a contribution to our Patient Care Fund today.

Kefyalow says “Thank you and may God bless you.”

Our Pediatric ward is crowded

This week, I was amazed at how crowded the hospital grounds are.  I quickly learned that families stay on the property when their loved ones are hospitalized.  When all beds are filled, which is a common occurrence, some sick and injured patients stay in the yard waiting for a vacancy.  Families huddle together, sleep under a tree or under the shelter of overhangs with few complaints.  Above, is the pediatric ward, which is one large room with multiple beds.  It is not uncommon to see family members share a bed or sleep on the ground next to the hospital bed.  For those who have not been here, imagine 6 hospital beds and 6 families, sharing one large room.

Today, we took care of a 4 year old child who had fallen from a mango tree, had an open distal radius and ulna fracture with the radius coming out of the skin.  There was mud and grass on the visible end of the bone coming through the skin.  We were able to take the patient to the operating room, remove the debris and mud, reduce the fracture and pin it back into place.  Dilute bleach is used as irrigation in the operating room, and almost every patient’s wounds are cleaned with dilute bleach daily while they are in the hospital.  It has proven to be extremely effective.


I am grateful to UCLA and OIC to have had the opportunity to come visit and help in Ethiopia, and look forward to another exciting week!

Would you consider a gift to our Benevolence Fund to help our poorest patients?

These notes and photos were provided by:

> Ed Cheung

> UCLA Orthopaedic Surgery

Yehone, "his name means, "Let it be"

Yehone is a newborn baby at Soddo Christian Hospital. “Let It Be” is the meaning of his name, but that is an impossible task for his young mother and grandmother, both of whom anxiously await the outcome of a surgery on which they’ve just been debriefed. Yehone’s family has traveled to Soddo from their local hospital 50 kilometers away. His grandmother explains that Yehone is the first-born child of her daughter, who is young, fatherless, and recently married. The tiny child in her arms is the prize of this family. Twenty days after his birth, Yehone’s family knew that he was fatally ill, with a distended stomach and unrelenting vomiting. They sought diagnoses and treatment at the hospital nearest them, but did not have enough money to pay for the child’s care. They were sent to Soddo Christian Hospital, where a Benevolence Fund will help pay for life-saving treatment they cannot afford. Yehone’s family used everything they had to make it to the hospital in Soddo. Today, Yehone will undergo an operation to heal the root of his illness - an intestinal malrotation.

Dr. Michelle explains to the mother and grandmother the need for this operation, assuring them that God has already protected their child, that his life today is reason to give thanks to God, and that we must continue to entrust the child’s care to God through prayer. Ayellech, a hospital chaplain, is in the room to pray for the baby and family. The women are both timid, they are afraid of the surgery and do not believe their precious one will make it through; “He is so small,” what if he does not wake up? The gnawing, clenching feeling of fear is evident on the women’s faces. Ayellech places her hands on the child and his mother, and prays powerfully for the baby’s life. When the prayer finishes, she does not stand up and walk away. She holds the mother’s shoulder and asks, “Why did you not say ‘Amen?’” Do you not know that God is good? The women look worried, but they know that this is their hope, that they must put their trust in the doctors here to save their child; it is through the faith and evangelism of the staff that they are led instead to put their faith in God. “God is the only physician who can save this baby,” Dr. Yates explains before she prays for the family, “So we must pray.”

“God has given us an opportunity to share the gospel here…to people who come from all corners and all tribes of Ethiopia,” explains Tesfaye, another hospital chaplain, “I cannot share the gospel more anywhere else.”

Soddo Christian Hospital provides more than physical healing, but it is only through the lifesaving care of the doctors that this opportunity arises.

When Yehone’s family arrived at Soddo, they had spent everything they had on transportation to the hospital. They had nothing left to pay for treatment.

The Benevolence Fund is currently very short of funds.  We used $113,000 to fund Benevolence Patients in 2016, wiping out our reserves.

For Yehone and his family, the hospital’s reserve Benevolence Fund (which has been set aside for pregnant mothers) is being re-allocated to cover the surgery and medicine costs for Yehone, in addition to food for his mother and grandmother. Because of this resource, Yehone and his family will remain in the hospital while he undergoes treatment; they will be in the care of the hospital’s doctors, nurses, and chaplains, who will continue to share with them the love of Christ, and the hope of new life given by Jesus.

There is now an immense need to replenish the hospital’s Benevolence Fund, which in the past has been lifesaving to hundreds of patients – thanks to the generosity of donors. This is a major resource to provide opportunities for the staff to serve the poor; it is the means through which Soddo Christian Hospital shares the gospel with those who both need and desire it the most.

With your donation, Soddo Christian Hospital can continue to provide this much-needed care and hope to the neediest in Ethiopia. Will you help?

Yehone’s surgery was successful.  He is now recovering!  Thank you God!


You can give online at:


Celebrating God’s mercy and grace

Celebrating God’s mercy and grace

Celebrating God's Mercy and Grace

I know I always keep saying this, but seriously the cases I see here never cease to amaze me. Three weeks ago the ER called stating they had a pregnant mother critically ill and would I come right away to the OR because they were transferring her there. The story goes like this. Two weeks earlier she had seen a “native doctor/traditional healer” who had cut out her uvula. The uvula is that small appendage that hangs down the back of one’s throat. He had also cut out her tonsils. She had so much edema from this horrific procedure that her airway was being cut off and she could not breathe. She had been hospitalized at another hospital for seven days and her condition continued to worsen. They had not even realized at the other hospital that she was full term pregnant! The family moved her to SCH as their last hope. When I entered the OR and saw that her O2 saturation was very low and she was gasping for every precious breath, I did not hold out much hope that she could survive. On the OR table it was obvious that she was near term with a gravid uterus. We initially could not get a fetal heart rate but then with ultrasound I could see that the baby was still alive with a fetal heart rate of 50. The normal is 120-160. We had to act quickly if, at least, we could save the baby. Amazingly, Shewalul, our head nurse anesthetist, was able to intubate her and we delivered a lifeless little boy. Dr. David and Dr. Becky immediately worked on him for 25 minutes before they got a regular heartbeat. Then it took another 20 minutes before the baby started taking shallow breaths on his own. But he was still not out of the woods. Shortly afterwards he started seizing. Eventually he was placed on three seizure meds to control the seizures. Back to his mother…she survived the surgery but was not able to breathe without the help of a tracheotomy that was performed by Dr. Teddy, one of our PAACS surgeons. She was placed on steroids and antibiotics and slowly began to improve. She was in our ICU for 10 days. Her swelling eventually reduced and the tracheotomy was replaced with a smaller one and then later removed. She is now totally breathing on her own. Amazingly, both she and her baby boy went home this past week. To look at them both, it was like looking at a miracle. The baby did not appear to have any residual effects of his anorexia. All of the seizures have stopped and he looks like a normal baby boy. This is a true testament to God’s mercy and grace. –An update from Dr. Mark and Allison Karnes, October 2015

A Team Effort

The hospital has been buzzing lately about a young woman whose life was saved.  And with good reason!  She may be one of only a few patients to be mechanically ventilated and survive in this part of Ethiopia.

Tseganesh was pregnant and getting near term, when she started feeling bad.  She went to another health care facility, and after three days in the hospital, was discharged.  Unfortunately, a few days after that, she started having seizures.  Those in the medical community will recognize exactly what Tseganesh had.  It is called eclampsia and it is life-threatening to both mom and baby.

When she came to Soddo Christian Hospital, she had been seizing for ten straight hours.  She was rushed to the OR for immediate Cesarean delivery.  It was two beautiful babies.   Twins!  The babies seemed okay, but Tseganesh was getting much worse.  Though the seizures were controlled with medications, brain damage was suspected.  At one point in the surgery, she even arrested briefly.  Fluid had begun to fill her lungs, and it appeared that she aspirated as well during the seizures.  She was critically ill to the point of near-death.

After the surgery, it was clear that Tseganesh was not going to breathe on her own.  We made the decision to mechanically ventilate her, but with great trepidation.  You see, our ventilator is brand new, and our staff are not very experienced with it.   Ventilating a patient like this would be common in the West, but here, it could be a death sentence.  Our physician and nursing staff were committed to saving this young woman's life.  So, day and night, a staff member was at her bedside.  Turning her, keeping her breathing tube clear, monitoring the ventilator.   And praying.   We all took turns, and begged God to save this young woman's life.  And after five days on the ventilator, her lungs had cleared to the point where she could breathe on her own.

At long last, she was finally able to hold and feed her two precious babies!

We praise God for so many things in this young woman's story:

  • that He united our staff to work hard and provide excellent medical care
  • that our prayers were answered, and her life was saved
  • that she appears to have no brain damage from prolonged seizing and cardiac arrest
  • that the two twin babies are healthy and thriving
  • that willing donors from abroad gave money so that the hospital could procure a quality ventilator
Two of our staff while Tseganesh is ventilated prone - an indication of how seriously ill she was.
Two of our staff and Tseganesh while prone - an indication of how seriously ill she was.  Prone ventilation is used on the sickest of patients.
Out of the ICU with her beautiful babies.
Out of the ICU with her beautiful babies.

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Our Youngest Fundraisers Ever!

Our donors are truly amazing.  Occasionally, we have a donor (or group of donors) who are so extraordinary that we have to share the story with you.  This is one of those times...

Near the end of 2014, we were blessed to be visited by Drs. Dustin and Angela Larson.  Angela is a family practitioner and Dustin is an orthopedic surgeon.  The two of them worked tirelessly alongside our national and missionary staff here in Soddo.  But that's not all.  On the other side of the ocean, Dustin's brother Loren and his four kids back in the USA were following the details of their trip.

Loren Larson is an orthopedic surgeon also, so naturally the kids are interested in medical things.  They saw pictures and heard stories of the patients and their injuries at Soddo Christian Hospital.  They were moved by the plight of the Soddo patients.  Their oldest, Lauren (age 11) came up with the idea to start a fundraiser.  She said, let's sell brownies (which the kids themselves made) and hot cocoa to the neighbors from a stand in front of our house!

The siblings banded together and opened their store, and raised $31 USD!  All on their own, with no adults.

Naturally, when we heard about this at Soddo Christian Hospital, we had to share it with you.  The beauty is that even $31 can save a life in Soddo.  That's enough to pay for someone's hospitalization, or to have their lab tests and x-rays done.  No contribution is too small!  And these kids saved someone's life by just taking initiative.  We were so encouraged to see that God can stir even the very young to join us in the work here.

Won't you be a part, too?  St.art a fundraiser today, and save lives here in Ethiopia...

The Larson kids raising money for Soddo

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Giving Away Your Birthday

What does it mean to "give away your birthday"?  We found out when one generous little boy from Indiana did it when he turned nine.

You see, usually birthdays (especially for kids) are all about the presents.  Sure, it's a celebration, and there's nothing wrong with that.  But often the day becomes more about what we get out of it.  So, some wise folks out there had the thought to turn that idea on it's head.  What if instead of getting on your birth, you used it as a day to give?  People who decide to "give away their birthday" use it as an opportunity to tell others about a ministry or cause that they really believe in.  Then, they invite their friends and family to donate, instead of buying them presents!  How great is that?

Joseph was one of these huge-hearted people.  At the tender age of 8-going-on-9, he decided to give away his birthday for Soddo Christian Hospital.  Here is the letter he wrote to all his friends and family.  They shared it by email, blog, and Facebook:

For my birthday, I decided I am going to give my birthday away. Instead of gifts, I want to raise money. I have chosen Soddo Christian Hospital in Soddo, Ethiopia. Soddo is where I was born and lived before I came to America. I am so lucky-this summer I get to go with my dad, Granddad and brother to visit Soddo. 

This hospital is not just an ordinary hospital-everyone who come in learns about Jesus. This is something that is important to me. 

Also, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. This hospital helps people in one of the poorest parts of the country. Without this hospital, they might not get any help.

I am raising money for them to buy a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine helps babies be able to breath correctly. When my twin brothers were born early, this machine saved their lives. I am excited to help save babies lives.

Thanks to the generosity of Joseph and his friends and family, $9,700 was raised.  That's right.  You heard that correctly.  $9,700!  The hospital was able to buy not one, not two, but THREE CPAP machines.  And several babies lives have been saved as a result.  (The mortality of pre-term babies is very high in Ethiopia, but due to these machines, our survival rate is improving dramatically).  This small act of selflessness on the part of this child yielded dividends that are saving lives!

So, what do you say?  Are you ready to give away your next birthday?

Joseph with his family.  Soddo Christian Hospital thanks you!!
Joseph with his family. Soddo Christian Hospital thanks you!!

Happy World TB Day 2014!

You probably haven’t heard much about tuberculosis, or TB.  Maybe you remember that Nicole Kidman’s character Satine in Moulin Rouge died from TB.  Or you remember Katerina Ivanova in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  But you probably don’t personally know anyone with the disease.

But the fact is, TB is everywhere.  Epidemiologists estimate that 2.3 billion people in the world are infected with TB.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Two point three billion.  Fully one-third of the world’s 7 billion population.

Why have you not heard much about it then?  Well, because in the US, less than 1% of the population has been infected with TB.

The thing is, TB is a disease of the developing world.  Every year, 9 million new people are diagnosed with TB disease – and 98% of them live in the developing world.  Nelson Mandela said, “The world has made defeating AIDS a top priority.  This is a blessing.  But TB remains ignored. …We can’t fight AIDS unless we do much more to fight TB as well.”

In the emergency room in Ethiopia, I see TB every single day.  Literally.  Last week, I saw a woman come in with abdominal pain who had lost a fourth of her body weight.  She looked like a skeleton.  Her abdomen was rigid and tender, and it turned out she had TB infection of the intestines.  Another day, I saw an adolescent with back pain because TB had destroyed his spine (we call this Pott’s disease).

This is the kind of stuff that you only read about in textbooks in America.  But in Africa, it is deadly real.  Ethiopia is one of the “high burden” countries for TB – 22 countries which make up 82% of the entire world’s cases .  In Ethiopia, there are 280,000 new cases of TB diagnosed every year.  Epidemiologists call this “incidence”.  (By contrast, in the US, there are about 10,000 new cases of TB every year).   The Millennium Development Goals are seeking to reduce TB in countries like Ethiopia.  But the political will is lacking.  There are few high profile celebrities with TB.   Research dollars that go toward TB are dwarfed by that of HIV.  Though we have countless new drugs for HIV, we have NO NEW DRUGS to treat TB.

What can we do to fight TB?  For centuries, the only way to diagnose it has been by looking at someone’s sputum under a microscope.  And this only catches TB 50% of the time!  (In contrast, the test for HIV is in the blood, and is 99% accurate at detecting the disease).  Finally, in recent years, a device has been developed that can confirm TB.  It is called the GeneXpert, and we hope to get one here at Soddo Christian Hospital.

So today, on World TB Day, perhaps you find yourself asking, “What can I do to help stop TB?” Well, if you’re a friend of Soddo Christian Hospital, the answer is surprisingly simple.  We would like to get a GeneXpert.  It will make diagnosis of the disease more accurate, and allow us to help many more people.  We will detect when patients are suffering from this horrible disease, and can start lifesaving therapies immediately.


Help From Within & Without

We are so energized by our donors and volunteers.  We have folks who are giving financially to the hospital.  And we have folks who come and serve at the hospital.  So naturally, we would be excited about a family who has decided to do BOTH!

Meet Claire Gahm.  She's a fourth-year medical student at the Medical School for International Health in Beeraheva, Israel.  Her medical school is a partnership with Columbia University.  It's actually an American-style medical school that focuses on cross-cultural and global opportunities for the students.  Claire came to Soddo for her 2 month international rotation, and is loving it.  She's thrown herself in completely - working the ER, assisting in surgeries, and helping out with just about everything.

Claire (left) with mom and dad, Greg and Laurie
Claire (left) with mom and dad, Greg and Laurie

Now, meet Claire's parents.  Her dad is a medical doctor and her mom, a physician's assistant.  They've always been supportive of the their daughter's mission efforts, and Soddo Christian Hospital is no different.  When Greg and Laurie Gahm began researching where their daughter was working, they wanted to be a part.  They instantly joined our "100 for 100" campaign, and became faithful supporters of the hospital!

Raising their kids to be men and women after God's own heart, the Gahms enthusiastically support the places they go to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  When we asked Greg about it, he said, "As I speak to Claire about Soddo, I am reminded how our Lord withdrew from the crowds to go to places of refreshment for prayer with His Father.   I feel Soddo is such a place.   Because of  the ' work' that is done there, it is a place of refreshment for all the staff  as well as for those in Ethiopia."

We think so too, Greg.  God bless your family, and thanks for all you do for Soddo Christian Hospital!