Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


Day 4 - The Swedish Clinic

We "woke up" from our sleepless night at 6am and had to wake D up, get her ready, and be at the orphanage at 7am for our doctor's appointment.

The doctor did not show up. According to the nurse he had a late night and decided to come at 10am instead of 7am.

SO. Not. Cool.

We had to choose between waiting for 3 hours (which was not going to happen) or walk a couple of miles back to Kelley's house. (Couldn't get a taxi to stop in rush hour traffic.)

We walked in the dust along the side of the road. Through goat herds, over piles of crap, with exhaust in our faces, clutching our sick baby to J's chest. I kept stumbling on huge rocks. J was being stared at like he was an alien landed from the very outer edges of the universe. D was all wide frightened eyes and raspy wheezing. Awful.

Kelley took one look at us and packed us off to her doctor at the Swedish Clinic. What can I say about the Swedish Clinic? It is professional. The doctor is kind. The lab is on site. The medicine is imported from Sweden and is guaranteed not to be expired.

We spent 3+ hours at the clinic. They gave D a full body physical and noted that she was very sick with bronchitis and a bacterial infection that entered through her v*g*na and spread up throughout her body. It was emerging as an eye infection, a bacterial respiratory infection, and a v*g*nal infection. The cause? Sitting in dirty diapers. Not being cleaned properly. Which is just infuriating since the orphanage has four nannies assigned to just 3 infants in the baby room. There is no reason they couldn't use the pounds of wipes sitting in the nursery to clean those babies. (But they don't.)

D also had fungal infections behind her ear and in her v*g*na. What we saw was not pretty. There was a lot of swelling, discoloration, pus, and general ooze. Our poor baby. She was so lethargic. But she was a great trooper throughout the whole inspection and the blood draw.

We left the Swedish clinic armed with 4 prescriptions, a receipt for our $325 bill, and feeling huge relief knowing that we had received the best care possible in Addis Ababa.

I don't understand why AAI can't bring the children in their care to the Swedish clinic. This is beyond my understanding. Why are the children at A***E being given such poor local care when we are, in theory at least, paying for their care while we wait to pick them up?

After arriving home I learned that other volunteers had stories of finding D sitting alone in her own feces covered in mucus and vomit. Another volunteer found her with the skin peeling completely off of her little bottom from such terrible diaper rash. How is this an acceptable level of care? I simply don't understand it. It isn't like the nannies were overwhelmed with children in the nursery.

The night that we brought D into Kelley's home, her cook burst into tears. Later she told me that as an Ethiopian she felt ashamed that any Ethiopian woman could take such poor care of our baby. She knew just by looking at D that she had not been cared for. She was actually afraid she was going to die! (A bit melodramatic in my opinion - but she said she was scared for her.)

Several times throughout our weeks at Kelley's house her cook, nanny and rotating security guards thanked us for coming for D and apologized that it was Ethiopians who had allowed her to be so sick. At first I tried to tell them that I thought the nannies might have been doing their best but they ALL told me that no woman would allow her child to become so sick with things that were preventable (like a diaper infection) and that it is common knowledge that orphanage workers work for money, not for the love of the children. :(

This isn't the end of the story. We are ok now obviously. And even in our time in Addis D improved tremendously. She enjoyed HUGE daily doses of affection from Kelley's family, from Yeshi the cook, Dinkanesh the nanny, and Solomon and Dessie the guards. She was emotionally and physically lavished with attention and care and it didn't take long for her to become herself. But I will never forget the condition her body was in when the doctor examined her at the Swedish clinic. And I will never forget the horror on Kelley's staff's faces when they saw her (CLOTHED) that first night.

My poor baby. I wanted to believe they loved her. But love is expressed in actions and I can't find anything in their actions that could make her conditions acceptable.



  1. Wow, brave post. Can I say how glad I am that you wrote this?

    I've read a lot of 'oh, my baby was SO loved while in care!' and all I've been able to think was 'hmmmm, not MY babies'. We didn't have anytihng like the same caregiver to child ratio, so yours had a LOT less excuse. But on our first visit I remember seeing baby L's nappy changed, full of feces, and a new nappy put on while her butt was still COVERED in mess. And that was while I was standing right there. Oh, and there was the fact that they only put on about 100g over four weeks.

    I've always thought that if we had an agency to work with, things might be better. This post makes me think, maybe not.

    Anyway. I'm so very, very glad that your beautiful girl is now so loved and cared for. I'm really enjoying this series of posts about your trip!

  2. Wow. I am so happy that she received good care at the Sweedish clinic. I am also adopting through AAI, and am incredibly dismayed by the conditions. Your post is eye-opening.
    I wish you all the best and that D gets healthy quickly.

  3. Oh man. Have you shared all of this with AAI? Somehow I'm sure you have. I am so sorry for D and for you guys and am really really appalled. I am angry at AAI and AHOPE.

  4. The contrast between the care Myra received at CHSFS Ethiopia and the care at Little AHOPE is night and day. The only thing that I can think of is that positive children (baby girls or otherwise) do not "deserve" the same level of care the healthy babies do...I'm not sure what the children at AHOPE are taught or how living positive is educated but if I hear B say that she is dirty one more time I'm tempted to fly back to ET and give them an ear full. SERIOUSLY -- AHOPE is supposed to give hope with our money and support I might add. Thanks for sharing and keep it up. Please, again, let me know how to help.


  5. I am so glad she is home and cared for by her mamma. What a frightening experience. I've always said that the moment we met our sick Noemi was the most wonderful and terrifying moment of my life. We, too, spent time at the Swedish Clinic (LOVED them--what a relief!) and were hugely frustrated that Noemi had not been taken there. We complained to AAI once home, but next time I'll be more brazen in ET.

  6. aarrrggghh. audible groan. i know i romanticized the whole orphanage bit -- until i learned otherwise. thanks for the shiro recipe. just ordered some injera from DC, and intend to attempt shiro on tuesday...

  7. Ugh - this just makes my heart hurt.... how in the world is it possible. When Scott was picking our guy up from AHOPE he had an horrible ear infection and the AAI dr went on a rant about AHOPE so I know that AAI knows, but it seems either they can't do anything about it or won't, not sure which...

  8. UGH. Poor little baby girl. That is inexcusable.

  9. Poor sweet baby. My girls are from A***E. Home almost one year. I am so extremely saddened by some of the things I have been learning about. So sad for our children.

  10. Great, important post. I am horrified by this but also what one commenter wrote about the children being told they are dirty. This makes me sad beyond words. We visited there but did not go back into the rooms. I wish I had.

    A lot of people donate, but who is accountable for the care there?

  11. Oh, A. I am so very sorry. When Kenny and I entered into this world of international adoption, we didn't think twice about the standard of care in orphanages; we thought all care was equal. About 1/2 way into our adoption (when we started seeing kids come home) and when we brought Ellie home and she was seen by the international pediatric specialist at Children's was when it really hit home that man, we lucked out. It is certainly something we will keep in the mind for future adoptions. And, I am so glad that you shared your experience so that others can learn from it and/or advocate on behalf of the children.


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.