For 30 years, Rick Hodes, JDC’s resident medical director in Ethiopia, has worked out of the basement of a crowded public hospital, treating patients with spinal deformities and heart disease, as well as a variety of other rare medical issues. The majority of these patients are impoverished children.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Hodes has forged strong partnerships to bring care to those in need. In 2006, he launched a spine program with Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei of Ghana and his FOCOS organization. The program has grown from 20 patients to over 400 new cases every year, and performs over 100 surgeries annually in Ethiopia, Ghana, and the United States. As the senior consultant at a Catholica medical mission, Dr. Hodes has worked with refugees in Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania, and Albania. He also works with the cardiac center at AIMS Amrita Hospital in Cochin, India to serve cardiac patients.
Dr. Hodes is a CNN Hero, holds five honorary doctorates, and was awarded Mastership by the American College of Physicians. To learn more about his inspiring work, you can watch one of the four documentary films about him, such as HBO’s “Making the Crooked Straight” or “Zemene,” or read Marilyn Berger’s book, “This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes.”
Your donation will change lives!
$26,000 will pay for a spine surgery, including transport
$9,000 can pay for a heart surgery, including transport
$1,000-$1,500 will treat a patient for cancer
$5,500 will completely cover the cost of sending a woman to nursing and midwifery college for four years
Support Dr. Hodes in his life-saving work by donating below!
A Grandmother's Love
Biruk’s grandmother once took me aside to ask: “Will you please operate on Biruk before I die?” I asked her age, and she had no idea. She didn't remember the Italian invasion – October 1935. She was already married during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, so she has to be at least 70.
She has been married three times, the first time as a 10-year-old. They were together for two years, no children. The second was disrupted by their cows developing rabies after being bitten by a rabid dog. She went home to her family, and her husband went elsewhere. The had one daughter who died as a baby.... keep reading The third husband was the father of three children, who all died. She is left only with Biruk, her grandson.
We asked what she thinks of Biruk, age 10: “I love him. I don’t believe my own eyes – I always want to look at him, also, nothing else.”
“When he developed a bad back,” she continued, “I was afraid I would lose him as well. I went to a health center in Yirer. We were sent to four other hospitals before we found you. God gave me Dr. Rick, like rain.”
We asked about how she lives. Someone gave her a home; it sounds like a lean-to, with corrugated walls and an open ceiling. It rains into the house. Neighbors walk by and give her a bit of money each day to live and buy food. The kindness Ethiopians can show towards each other never ceases to amaze me.
Biruk went to Ghana and had surgery earlier this year. We found that he also has a heart condition, but not one that prevents operation. He had a significant S-curve, but it was less than 100 degrees, and he was operated without traction. He had growing rods implanted and wears a brace while he is awake.
My staff was so taken by the state of penury that we finished the interview and asked them to wait outside, and the interviewer took 200 birr (about $7) from his pocket and gave it to the grandmother. Biruk now has a future, and his grandmother has another reason to keep going.
A long walk to a new life
Bires, 25, dropped out of school in ninth grade due to taunting from students about his deformed back. He worked as a day laborer and shined shoes. He entered a program in Gondar training disabled people to become tailors, using foot-powered sewing machines.
One day a classmate took him aside and showed him his back, saying, “I used to be like you, but a doctor in Addis sent me to Ghana for traction and surgery.”
Bires graduated second out of 120 students and told his brother, an Orthodox priest, that he needed to come to Addis Ababa. The priest told his wife he would sell a cow to... keep reading raise the $15 bus fare. His wife said, “No way.”
Instead, the brothers walked for eight days, about 250 miles. We asked, “Where did you sleep at night?”
“Egzabher engida,” they replied, literally “guest of God.” At night they would knock on a stranger’s door and say, “We are guests sent to you by God. Please let us in.”
Every night they were welcomed, given a basin, water, and soap to wash their feet, fed a large meal, and shown out in the morning.
We sent Bires to Ghana for five months of traction, followed by two surgeries. He is now hoping to buy a sewing machine to open a tailor shop.
Once a patient, now a doctor
Dear Dr. Rick -
Life is full of transitions. People are born, they grow and change, they die. There are a lot of intermediate steps. It’s important to remember that it isn’t always about life or death.
This letter of appreciation is about one of these intermediate steps, I wanted to thank you not only about what you did to my son, Dagmawi, but more so on behalf of the children and families you are supporting beyond your professional obligation.
The good things you are doing have wiped out tears from sighing mothers and paste joy and happiness on the face of the needy children. This world is... keep reading full of sin, and the sheer size and frequency of its inequity would force one to think that this planet is hurling to its destruction.
However, it is my conviction that good-hearted people like you are the ones who stop this planet from its suicidal mission. I thank you on behalf of the many Ethiopian children who have benefited from your medical and social care.
I am genuinely at a loss for words in expressing my gratitude to you and your organization.
Dr. Dagmawi Eyobs
Background: Dagmawi came to us in 2006 as a high school student with a congenital spinal deformity. He did not want surgery. He sat with Dejene, Dr. Rick’s son, who described his surgery for an hour. He then agreed to surgery. Last year he graduated from medical school!