More

Meet the woman who has saved thousands of babies using string, tape, and her fancy medical degree.

Here's why babies at one broken-down hospital in Ethiopia live longer than many babies in the world.

Meet the woman who has saved thousands of babies using string, tape, and her fancy medical degree.

Dr. Mulualem Gessesse is one of seven doctors in all of Ethiopia who specialize in treating premature babies.

And thanks to her, Ethiopia's been making huge strides in providing sustainable health care to its citizens.

YouTube vlogger and "The Fault in Our Stars" author John Green recently visited Ethiopia to see the people who are making it possible in action.


One doctor, Dr. Gessesse, stood out among the rest.

Dr. Gessesse. Image by John Green.

And she really has her work cut out for her.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people there don't have running water or electricity.

Needless to say, many of the fancy, high-tech medical machines we see in other parts of the world are not available.

Which means Dr. Gessesse is basically a modern-day version of MacGyver, only instead of using paperclips and gum to escape from the roof of a building before a bomb goes off, she's using her medical know-how and DIY skills every day to save babies' lives.

Image by John Green

But the lack of resources hasn't stopped Dr. Gessesse from dedicating her life to saving the lives of thousands of Ethiopian babies.

When premature babies are born, many of them need help breathing. To help them, doctors in industrialized countries often use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. These machines keep the baby's lungs from collapsing by delivering much-needed air through their mouths or noses.

But Dr. Gessesse doesn't have access to these machines. Once, when she asked for them, an organization delivered 12, which seemed great — but they were all adult-sized, making them useless.

So she created her own.

She made makeshift C-PAP machines for her infant patients using of oxygen tanks, tubing, and water.

Image by John Green

Dr. Gessesse's brilliant idea has allowed her to go from helping just a few hundred babies a year to thousands.

Thanks to doctors like her, the infant mortality rate in Ethiopia has plummeted at an unprecedented rate.

Ethiopia's child mortality rate is the fastest-falling in the world. The percentage of children dying before turning 5 has been cut in half.

Chart by U.N. Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.

Dr. Gessesse's success is possible in part because organizations like the Gates Foundation and Save the Children are meeting Ethiopians where they are.

Instead of coming in as outsiders and trying to tell the Ethiopian people what is best for them, these organizations are helping to create and implement a health improvement strategy catered specifically to the community's needs.

By working with the community and not against it, health care providers like Dr. Gessesse are empowered to use what is available to them to create innovative ways to save lives.

The reason why Dr. Gessesse does this work serves as a reminder that we're all connected.

When John Green asked why she chooses to dedicate her life's work to helping these fragile lives with so few resources, her answer was simple.

She chose this specialty because she strongly believes that we all have to look out for each other.

GIF via John Green.

She says: "I have many children. Only two biological, but many children."

Hats off to you, Dr. Gessesse.

GIF from "War Horse."

Learn more about the work in Ethiopia to save babies here:

via Pexels

There are certain things in the real world that just can be duplicated virtually. No matter how hard we try, a virtual happy hour isn't as fun as a regular happy hour. It's difficult to find chemistry on a Zoom date, and virtual dance parties will all be something we make fun of when this pandemic is over.

My heart goes out to all of the students and teachers across the country who have had to make do with virtual learning over the past year. It's a frustrating thing for all involved, but it's the best we can do at a time when we have to be apart.

Distance learning can be an effective way for kids to learn, but a mother on Twitter just told the world about a thing called Zoom Detention and nobody's here for it.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less