Ethiopia – an endless well of heartbreaking stories

    A child in Addis Ababa suffers from a heart defect. With surgery, it could be corrected. Brian deGuzman, a cardiac surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center in Phoenix, examined the boy during our recent visit. He was frustrated to learn that the child has been lingering on a waiting list for surgery at the heart hospital in Addis — despite the fact that there was no one on staff who had ever performed this specific surgery. He pledged to look into the possibility of a medical evacuation to the U.S. It would require a lot of financial support and it would have to happen quickly, or the child would die.

    Another child at the Addis Ababa foster home we visited suffers from a seizure disorder. He is sweet, affectionate — a beautiful child of about 7. He is very attached to his Ethiopian caregivers. But his brain, his ability to learn and his social skills have been affected by his disease. He had an adoptive family, before the seizures started. Now he is in limbo. The deGuzmans have been following his case through emails and phone calls with the staff of Christian World Adoption. When they traveled to Addis to pick up their own two babies, they brought refills for a very expensive prescription that has helped somewhat in curbing this child’s seizures. They spent more than half an hour with the nurse at the foster home, discussing his symptoms and progress.

    A 10-year-old girl in an orphanage in Soddo has recently been placed on a “special needs adoption” list because doctors discovered she has an irregular tissue growth under her armpit. It is quite likely benign, but she now has two strikes — advanced age and questionably medical status — against her hopes for a forever family. Actually, there is yet a third strike against her chances for adoption: she has a younger sister who, in the (completely valid) interest of keeping siblings together, would have to be adopted with her. Still, she has a smile that lights up the room and an eagerness to be useful. She likes to help with the babies at the orphanage; she grew close to Solomon and Tesfanesh deGuzman when they were living there. She studies English and continues to hope.

    A petite beauty wearing a second-hand, cream-colored Abercrombie hoodie is helping in the administrative offices at the Soddo orphanage. She cannot be adopted because two governments say she’s too old. No one really knows her actual age; both of her parents died of HIV. A family in the U.S. wants to adopt her, but they can’t. The U.S. Embassy, basing its assessment on an x-ray, set her age at 20, rendering her unadoptable. The Ethiopian government set her age at 17; 16 is the country’s cutoff for adoptions. So her future, which could have included a family and even a college education, is uncertain.

    I watched the girl’s face as Soddo orphanage director Stephne Bowers introduced her to us and explained her situation. Initially smiling and stoic, she finally broke down, burying her head in Stephne’s shoulder as the reality of her situation sunk in yet deeper. Stephne held her close, praying with her and offering what comfort she could.