Monday, 20 February 2012

19th February 2012

An American woman turned up at our house yesterday morning asking for Clara. I think our house has been identified as the Faranji house and so everyone gets sent to us. She was heading off to the orphanage in Gimbie that is run by someone called Monica. I believe that Monica was someone who used to work at the hospital and she set the orphanage up when it became apparent that there were many abandoned babies. So now the orphanage takes up to 10 babies and is managed by an Ethiopian man – presumably with some staff. The American woman was from an adoption agency in the States and was visiting 3 or 4 orphanages that she works with to find families for the babies. Apparently it takes around 1½ years for a baby to be adopted and the bureaucracy is getting tougher all the time. It also costs the adopting family $30,000 to go through the whole process. I asked the woman whether the orphanage took older children, thinking about the 5 street boys that we know. However, she said they only take children up to 2 years old. I guess that older children aren’t cute enough for the American market. I told her that I was concerned that these boys were not being cared for and often didn’t get any food for a couple of days but she simply replied that there was someone looking after them (which we have found is not happening) and that it was sad but nothing more could be done. Sorry boys, I tried to find you a home or something at least a bit better than what you have.
We were invited to another wedding yesterday and although we didn’t actually know the couple (one worked in the hospital administration department), we were persuaded to attend.  Just as the 12th person was climbing into the Adventist land cruiser, one of the nurses from female ward came running to the car to ask if anyone was blood group A Positive. Phew, I was thinking, I am B Pos and therefore not going to be dragged into this mercy mission. Three people in the car were suitable donors and started discussions about who had donated last and whether they could donate again. I asked what I thought was a sensible question; ‘who is the blood for?’ ‘What is her haemoglobin’ ‘What is her prognosis?’ After all, you have to be pragmatic about these things as there is no value in giving blood to someone who may not need it or who is unlikely to survive even if you do give it. Well no-one had thought to question why the blood was needed and so I suggested that Jeremy went with them to assess the situation. It turned out that there was a woman who had sadly given birth to a dead baby in the village, having fitted prior to the delivery. She had been brought into hospital where she bled a considerable amount but had stabilised over the past couple of days. Despite appearing to be recovering from her traumatic event, she then bled again and dropped her haemoglobin to 2g. For the non-clinical people out there, this level of haemoglobin is becoming incompatible with life – ie nothing to carry the oxygen around to those rather important organs like the heart and brain. So yes, she did need some blood and she needed it rather urgently. So we left the transfusion team behind to donate and went on to the wedding without them.  In case you are wondering, there is no blood transfusion bank here and if someone needs blood, the relatives are asked to donate. If they are not the right blood group, friends or staff are asked to donate.

The wedding was fairly typical of the previous 2 that we have been to, although the newly arrived faranji that was in the car with us was quite alarmed when she saw a sheep being hauled into the truck ahead of us, still kicking and objecting strongly to the string around its neck and feet. Yes, the sheep was part of the wedding party. We did the obligatory tour around the town, beeping the horn as loud as possible – and this is often not that loud as most car horns have worn out – and singing and dancing in the car to attract as much attention as possible. As is always the case, the front car hosted the video cameraman, who bumped along capturing all this merriment and madness. Apparently, having a car full of Faranjis at this point pushes the status of the wedding up a notch and so it was important that we were paraded through the town.

When we finally arrived at the reception, having first been to the bride’s house for more dancing and music, and then the groom’s house for yet more, we were taken to the seats right at the top of the reception to sit with the bride and groom. Feeling rather embarrassed about being in this position of honour, I was very relieved when the blood transufers called to ask if we could pick them up. When we arrived back with the rest of the party, now proudly displaying their over-plastered arms, we were told of how a slightly peaky woman stumbled before them outside female ward. They heard a thump and looked over at the woman to see a her placenta drop to the floor. I guess she had arrived at the hospital because the placenta had got stuck after delivering her baby. Who knows how far she had travelled.

So we all sat to enjoy the injera, and for me, vegetables, that were served at the party. I was just wondering when the sheep slaughter had taken place when someone brought round a sharp knife for each of the guests. Whilst we were taxi driving people to the reception, the sheep had been slaughtered, the head had been given to the new in-laws and now everyone was being invited to cut off their bit of meat from the section of carefully draped sheep that was being brought round. I passed on this part of the celebrations, not least of all because the meat was then eaten raw. Apparently a great delicacy.

After the reception we piled around 30 people into the Adventist and our car and took them back to the hospital where we heard that the woman with the low haemoglobin had died shortly after starting the blood transfusion.


  1. yuk, on the raw sheep!!!! Karen you know how I am on food!!!!! lol

  2. Yes, I know - John, you would really struggle to survive out here. You'd be as thin as a stick within a month xx

  3. Karen, I am from the UK and going through the very long and emotionally draining process of adopting from overseas. I worked in the hospital in Gimbie for a year, and am hoping to adopt from Ethiopia, and even better would be to adopt from Gimbie. I would love it if you can give me some information on the orphanage in Gimbie. I have been in contact with Sister Mattie but she has not answered my e-mails for so long now. I have more adoption meetings starting Monday with the overseas Adoption Agency in Barnet, London and my home assessments start beginning of Feb, so it would be great if I could contact Monica before then. Please can you e-mail me if you have anything I can take to my social worker assessments.
    Thanks, and looking forward to hearing from you