Our CUREkids Coordinators are CURE’s eyes and ears on the ground in our hospitals. They not only file photos and updates on each CUREkid but also act as Correspondents, giving us a glimpse of life at the CURE hospital and in the country and culture in which the hospital serves. The following is part of the Correspondent series, filed by Bryan Fay, our CUREkids Coordinator in Ethiopia.
This is Ayantu, a beautiful seven-year-old girl from outside of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. She speaks Oromia, 1 of 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia. No one I work with understands this dialect, so I can’t tell you exactly where she is from, but we are happy she is here now!
Ayantu has something known as congenital tibial pseudarthrosis, commonly referred to as a “false joint.” It is associated with a condition known as neurofibromatosis. There is no answer as to why exactly this condition occurs, but it is believed that the lining of the bone resorbs (removes cells or tissue by gradually breaking down) the bone and stops it from growing properly.
Thankfully, because of a donation of a Taylor Spatial Frame, we are able to help Ayantu by gradually straightening her bone. After the anesthesiologist helped her take a little nap and the surgeons said a prayer for her, they moved into surgery. It only took two hours!
The brace is based on technology used with oil rigs and flight simulators. It has six telescopic struts that allow the rings (with the bone attached) to be lengthened, shortened, tilted, and rotated in any direction. A computer program guides the corrections. In Ayantu’s case, her leg will be straightened over a four-week period. Once this time is over, the brace will be removed and she will need one more operation.
I know I would not be as strong as she has been throughout the process! She is still cruising around the hospital in her wheelchair, using her crutches, and playing with all the other kids as if she doesn’t have this huge metal frame built onto her leg. She is so strong, and she’s such a sweet girl. I absolutely love spending time with her! It doesn’t matter if its 7:45am or the last hour of the working day, Ayantu is ready to make you sit with her. We play Mancala on my iPhone, she takes pictures with my camera, and we color in coloring books.
You might imagine that the silence between us is difficult, since we do not understand each other! However, that’s not a problem at all. Smiles, expressive eyes, mouth drops for excitement, and just making sure she gets what she wants are all effective ways to communicate. It’s very easy to love this little girl.
In a couple of weeks I will be heading off to Kenya for a short time so I won’t get to see her all the way through her time at CURE Ethiopia, and that breaks my heart. I look forward to seeing her come back for a follow-up with a straightened leg, walking without crutches!
Also, it may be helpful to know that a Taylor Spatial Frame typically costs between $2,000 – $3,000. Without the donation, we never would have been able to perform this type of procedure to help Ayantu. Your donations, both large and small, make a significant difference to each of our CUREkids! Thank you for your continued support!