March 22, 2007
The righteous doctor of Ethiopia—healing suffering in the world heads this Orthodox physician’s
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"I love these so-called chance things. I mean, time after time things like that happen to me. I had this kid with a disease called osteogenesis imperfecta. He was breaking his bones [all the time] .... I spoke with a guy at Johns Hopkins, where I had trained, and he told me there's a drug called Pamidronate. One day I'm leading around some medical students, and I tell them that this kid needs Pamidronate, made in Europe by Novartis. That may be the first time I ever said the word 'Novartis.'
"The second that I said the word, somebody tapped me on the shoulder, a tall white guy who says, 'I'm a visitor here, and I work for Novartis.' And I said, 'Really?' So we exchanged information, and he sent me a two-year supply ... and the kid stopped breaking his bones. A month or two later, he got out of his wheelchair and started walking again.
"Another story: I was at the hospital in Gondar City, and I ran into a doctor who said, 'I have a patient, let me show you.' And he took me over and showed me this 12-year-old girl who's been living in the hospital for three years, who has a 100-degree angle of her spine. A little more than a right angle. A big V in her back. TB causes a V-shaped back.
"And I examined her, and I thought I would really like to help her, but you can't do those tests in Gondar, so I needed to get her to Addis. So I went through all the hoops and got official authority, and I took her on the plane with me to Addis Ababa and brought her to Mother Teresa's, and I did all the tests and got her an MRI, and all that.... I'm funding her education, and she was just accepted for surgery. She also has terrible eyesight, and I made sure that she had glasses made by an American optometrist.
"I'm really happy with someone like this, whom nobody was interested in helping, an abandoned orphan ... you know, you are in one of the poorest countries in the world, where the average income is $110 per year, and this girl is abandoned by her family ... and she doesn't even have a home, she's living in the hospital. The idea that we can help her and turn her life around, for not a lot of money, is a fantastic thing."
Is there something about his Jewishness that led him on this path?
"What I do is because of my nature," Hodes said. "But the way I do it is through my religion." He said that every Saturday, he works as a volunteer physician at Mother Teresa's mission, seeing many patients who might perish otherwise.
"There's no minyan on my side of the city," he said, explaining why he works on Shabbat. "And even if there was, saving lives is a higher priority."
"It's a very Jewish life that I live, in a very unusual place to live a Jewish life."
For more information, visit the Joint Distribution Committee Web site, email Carol Jacobi, or call her at (310) 454-5401.
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