Meskel and Debra Zeit - Celebration and Relaxation

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Sunday, September 30, 2012

We are loving our time here in Addis Ababa. The place we are staying is incredible and comfortable. The family who owns the guest house where we are staying have been more than accommodating and have helped us with every question or concern that crosses our minds.

A typical day for us goes as follows:

We wake up around 7:30 AM. They have a cook come in to our quarters to provide us with a nice continental breakfast. The tea here is amazing, made from scratch with herbs and spices that create a tea that is better than any other tea I have ever had in my life. I look forward to this tea every morning.

We leave the guesthouse at 8:15 AM. The drive to the hospital is very long due to construction and traffic. Despite this, we absolutely love this drive because it allows us to "people watch" for 45 mins each way. The people here are fascinating and flood the streets of Addis. Women carry children on their backs with parcels in hand. Men work on the side of the roads. Little shops are bustling at early hours of the morning. The drive to the hospital is one of the highlights of our day.

We work in the hospital from 9 AM until about 5 PM every day. Last week we worked on the Internal Medicine Emergency Side seeing really interesting cases. Here, people are very sick when they come into hospital. People sit at home with kidney infections and strokes for days before seeking treatment. The team we work with is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. When we have spare time, Carissa and I partake in teaching sessions.

In the evenings I have been working on CaRMS applications (for residency) and Carissa has been working on Medical School applications.

The other day we had a patient on our side of the Emergency Room with Acute Kidney Injury. This was secondary to a viral infection. Dialysis here is not covered by the government. People must pay 20,000 birr for one week of dialysis, which is the equivalent of about $1000.00 US. This is an impossible cost, even for the rich here in Addis. This woman was a widower with a young 9-year-old son. He sat by her bedside crying as he heard the news of his mother's prognosis. We asked the doctors how often they see this happen and they said daily. This was once of the first of many sobering moments we would have while working in Addis.

The other day we asked to visit the ICU. In the ER departments in Canada, there are specific areas of the hospital that have Cardiac (heart) monitors for all patients in the area. In St. Paul’s hospital there is one single Cardiac monitor and one single ventilator in the entire hospital and these are both located in the ICU. They choose which patient will benefit most from the use of these monitors. The ICU has 6 beds and the entire area is about the same size as one of the ICU suites at the Royal Alex Hospital.

Wednesday marked the eve of a national religious holiday called Meskel. This holiday celebrates the burning of Chris on the cross. Most of the citizens in Addis meet at Meskel Square where they sing and dance while burning a huge cross made from straw and grass. We were accompanied by some of the intern doctors to this event, which made us feel safe. They escorted us right up to the front of the massive crowd and the site was beautiful. Nearing the end of the celebration, the crowd started to push forward. Police bordered the crowd and held batons, guns, and shields and started to use the batons on the front of the crowd right where we were standing. We quickly tried to back into the crowd as it pushed forward. It was quite the struggle but eventually we managed to escape. It was a scary experience to say the least.

On Saturday we decided to take a trip 1 hour out of town to a place called Debra Zeit. This is a hidden gem of Ethiopia and we are so glad that we had the opportunity to visit. On our way to Debra Zeit, we saw a man run in the middle of the highway and almost get hit by a huge semi-truck. We were wondering why he would run into the middle of the busy road but then quickly noticed a policeman running after him with a baton. It turns out that he had stolen something from a local shop and now was being chased down. Since there are no crosswalks here and cars don’t slow down for people crossing the street, it is risky business trying to get from one side to the other. I asked our guide how often pedestrians are hit by cars and he said very often and then followed that by “you will see”, implying that we would be witness to a pedestrian being hit by a car on our 1-hour trip to Debra Zeit. Lucky for us, and the pedestrians, this was not the case! The punishment for pedestrian fatality is 15 years in prison. If you injure a pedestrian, you and your family must pay for their food for the remainder of their lives. I don’t know why they don’t just use crosswalks!

In Debra Zeit, the mode of transportation is either by Donkey drawn carriages or these tiny three wheeled vehicles adapted from Asia called Bajajs. On the way to our hotel we stopped to visit 3 crater lakes. The lakes that we visited were called Lake Bishoftu, Lake Hora, and Lake Kuriftu. The view of these lakes was absolutely breathtaking. They are all surrounded by lush vegetation. In a couple of the lakes you can catch small fish. We took a makeshift boat ride around Lake Hora. For accommodation, we stayed at a spa resort on Lake Kuriftu. This place is probably the nicest place I have ever stayed and the cost for one night is less expensive than a motel back home. A full body Swedish massage costs $10.00 and a one-hour pedicure costs $7.00, so we had both! The restaurant overlooked the lake and was open to the elements. There was always incense burning and tranquil music playing in the background. We took kayaks out on the lake in the scorching sun. Needless to say rest and relaxation were key ingredients to this weekend. We didn’t turn on our laptops once!

This week we are working on the surgical side of the Emergency Room. I am told that because people must pay for CT scans out of their own pockets, but surgeries are covered by the government, they often elect for open laparotomies (incision through the abdominal wall) instead of imaging to determine the cause for their abdominal symptoms. I am sure this will be a very interesting week!

We hope everyone is splendid back home!

<3 Andrea and Carissa
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kyla on

Hi girls! Fantastic blog, love the pic of my sis in her white coat!

Joan on

What an experience. Remi and I read your blog. Very interesting and informative. We are very proud of what you guys are doing. Yes it was nice to see a picture of our niece and cousin.

Allan Kratchmer on

Mom and I are very proud of you Carissa, please be careful and you two are incredible girls what you are doing,we love you and miss you have the time of your life.

Mom on

Carissa I was. Thinking about. The. Little. Girl. Who. Was. Scared. To. Go. To. Kindergarden. It. Seems. You. Have. Overcome. Your. Fears. How. Proud am. I. Let. Me. Count. The. Ways Love. Mom.

Mom on

Sorry it seems there. Are a lot of periods I'm new at this.

Kristen on

Love your blog!! Sounds like you guys are having an amazing time. How is the food? Hans and I found East Africa to have the best tasting food when we went. Miss you!!

Kevin on

Hope .you .guys are .doing .good. It. Sounds. Like .so much .fun.

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