Stacia Neale, Fundraising Operations for HealthyKids International (HKI), is blogging on her experiences as she accompanies the SickKids No Boundaries team to Ethiopia to oversee the filming of a documentary. Read all her posts here.
We still didn’t have our supply bags on Monday morning, so Graeme (our videographer) and I set out to do rounds at the Black Lion Hospital Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) clinic with Dr. Blake Papsin, SickKids staff otolaryngologist. With us was his team consisting of fifth-year ENT resident Dr. Jane Lea and nurses Lisa Papsin and Vanessa Chu. PACU nurse Ruth Doerksen joined us as well as Black Lion’s ENT expert, Dr. Abebe Melaku.
Photo: Me with a new friend
As we approached the ENT clinic, parents hurried their children along to keep up with us so they could be among the first in line. Most of the kids we were going to see were referrals from Dr. Abebe (here, it is customary to use a person’s title and first name when addressing him), patients who had been waiting for months in anticipation of “Dr. Blake’s” arrival.
When we arrived at the clinic, we were greeted by an ocean of people. The crowd standing outside was overwhelming and their expectations were high. We wedged ourselves into a tiny office along with Dr. Abebe’s residents, third-year Dr. Assefa Tesfaye and second-year Dr. Alene Meshesha as well as an ENT nurse. We stayed in that hot little room for hours, seeing well over 30 patients, many with complex cases. Dr. Papsin confirmed he would be operating on four of them the following day. One boy and his father travelled two days from the Sudanese border to be seen by the doctor from Canada.
At one point, needing some air, I let myself out into the waiting room full of people. It seems nothing breaks the ice better than a camera. Soon I was swarmed by kids wanting to be in our pictures and video. Many were eager to try out our cameras. It was one of the most fun times I have ever had. Graeme eventually came out and the two of us played with kids for over an hour. By the time the team was ready to go, almost all of the families had received a consultation.
Being in that clinic was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Everyone was treated with kindness and dignity and the kids were so hopeful for treatment. Parents sat patiently by and waited for the translation of Dr. Papsin and his team’s diagnoses. Even if the children were in pain, they allowed all of the doctors to perform examinations so that everyone could provide their medical expertise. Any worry I had about HealthyKids International not affecting real change immediately vanished. This was real. The help was real. The collaboration was real. The difference we made was instantaneous.
The kids all left with toys. Their parents left with a sense of calm and reassurance. Dr. Papsin and Dr. Lea left with a full day’s roster of surgical patients. Graeme left with amazing footage. I left with a heart full of hope and a sense of satisfaction that HKI is on the right track.
After an inspiring morning, we left the clinic and headed over to the OR to set up for the next day’s surgeries. Much to our relief, we heard our medical supplies had been released by customs but still needed to be audited by the Ministry of Health at the hospital before we could have access to their contents.
For me, even a major administrative inconvenience couldn’t diminish what I experienced in the morning. There are so many people here who need help. They manage to do so much with so little here. The success of the clinic wasn’t a socio-economic issue it was an issue of humanity. And I was so proud to be a part of it.