Project Mercy: Mar. 2-The First Day At Project Mercy - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Project Mercy: Mar. 2-The First Day At Project Mercy


I’m still having a little trouble sleeping here. We are nine hours ahead of La Crosse. As soon as the sun came up (around 6:15) I was out the door for a run. The compound is very safe, so I felt comfortable going alone. It was one of the best runs I’ve had in a long time. You can’t beat the view. Project Mercy is located at the base of a mountain. The sun rise combined with the cool temperatures made conditions nearly perfect. The only thing I had a little trouble with was staying on me feet! The roads are not paved. Instead they are lined with a red volcanic rock. It’s very sharp and very uneven. Thankfully I made it back to my tukul without injury. I was however a little out of breath; elevation getting the best of me!

I was amazed how quickly the Gundersen team jumped into action. After organizing all of their equipment they headed to the OR for their first of seven surgeries. All but one went well. There was nothing the team could do for the 30-year-old mother who came in with a mass in her abdomen. When Dr. Gundersen opened her up it was clear the mass was cancer. Had she been in La Crosse, Dr. Gundersen would have removed as much of the mass as he could and immediately referred the woman to oncology. She would have most likely started chemotherapy the next day. Or; if the patient chose not to treat her disease she would be medicated and made comfortable until the end. Neither is an option in Ethiopia. Instead, the team closed her incision, leaving the cancer untouched inside. After she recovers from today’s surgery, the woman will be sent home where she will die. Her death will be painful.

While the Gundersen team finished up in the OR, Mark and I spent some time with the kids at school. Ethiopian children are very friendly. They walk right up to you and ask your name and age. They also love to have their pictures taken, often yelling “one camera”. It's their way of asking you to take one more picture of them. As you can imagine, Mark and I are very popular! I also had the chance to help a couple of 5th grade girls with reading. We read a couple of “Clifford” books. It was a lot like reading to my sons. I’ve only been here a couple of days and I miss them already.

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