“If only she had come in one day sooner.”  I can’t tell you how many times I think that here.  Elfinesh was a 32 year old woman in the prime of her life, with a loving husband and two small children.  She came in to the emergency room with a history of four days of vomiting.  The illness, abrupt in onset, had taken a horrific toll on her body in such a short time.  It was probably sepsis – when an infection spreads rapidly through the body via the blood.

We worked as hard as we could.  Three of our staff doctors and two of our nurses attended to her simultaneously.  Placing IV lines, giving fluids, antibiotics, running tests.  Elfinesh clung to life, but she was so far gone that she was in a coma and unresponsive to anything.  A few hours into her course, she stopped breathing.  We tried to support her breathing, and when her heart stopped, we tried CPR.  Unfortunately, our attempts came to nothing, and after about four hours, she passed from this life into the next.

I wish I could tell you this was a rare occurrence.  But the reality is that in a country where access to medical care is sorely lacking, many patients wait too long.  Maybe they live several days’ walk from the nearest health center.  Maybe they have no money to scrape together even the $2 that it would take to see a doctor.  Perhaps they are delayed by traditional and cultural healing practices that actually exacerbate the problem.  The barriers to care are numerous, and as a result, many suffer.  All of our providers can tell stories of patients who came in just a day too late.

You see, there are no Minute Clinics in Ethiopia.  In our region of 3 million people, there are only two hospitals.  There are no accredited laboratories.  In a country of 90 million people, there are only 18 CT scanners.  There are NO cardiac surgeons.  Consider even the lack of the most basic of health care needs – trained general practitioners.  In Ethiopia, there is only one doctor for every 50,000 population.  (In the US, there are 100 times as many providers per capita).

We are working to address these issues.  Not only are we providing care, but we are training in order to build capacity.  But we need your help!  With funding, we can provide more training and more service.  We can expand access so that there are fewer stories that end like Elfinesh’s.  Help us help Ethiopia.