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  • Author icon JDC at
  • Author icon November 02, 2022

By Sintayehu Delelegn

My name is Sintayehu Delelegn. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I live in a mud house with my mother and two uncles. I am the only child for my mother; she went through a lot while I grew up. 

I had severe spine deformity since I was very young. Due to my condition, kids used to make fun of me and call me “gobata,” a terrible insult meaning “hunchback.” Even the elders showed me unfriendly faces when they saw my back. Because of that, I was depressed and had little confidence. I had shortness of breath, I could not walk long distance, and I could not stand for a long time.

Sintayehu after spinal surgery

One day in 2012, when I was walking in school, a stranger called me and she said that “there is a ferenj doctor (white doctor) that can treat your disease” and she recommended me to go to his clinic. The next Saturday, I went to his clinic without telling my family. 

I saw lots of patients who had spinal deformity like me and I realized that I was not the only person who has such deformity. After sitting in the waiting room, I was called to enter in to the examination room. After warm greeting by Dr Rick, he examined me, took about 25 photos in different positions, and ordered x-rays.  

After two years of follow-up, when I was 1st year university student, I travelled to Ghana for surgery by Dr Boachie and his team.

I had six month of traction at FOCOS Hospital, followed by surgery. The result? I got a new life with good posture, good breathing, good self-esteem and self-confidence!

After my surgery, I came back to Ethiopia. My entire family, my friends and my neighbors were very happy because of this miracle.  And I started sharing with others by working as a volunteer in Dr. Rick’s clinic, volunteering at a program with the USA Embassy, and other international organizations with full confidence and self-esteem.

I now have Bachelors Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Addis Ababa University. After I graduated, I worked in AMREF Health Africa as an intern engineer in WASH project, and travelled to South Korea representing Ethiopia for IT Challenge Competition with 20 non-African Countries and I received a certificate award. 

Sintayehu and Rick Hodes after surgery

Now, I am working in in a government office. I am planning to study for my master’s degree in project management next year, and work in NGOs. My long term goal? – to create a youth association to benefit our community and country.

Dr. Rick – you, and your team, and your donors – you have completely changed my life.  I can breathe, I can stand, I can walk tall.  My family and I cannot begin to thank you. 

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