• Meet Abu

The surgical team knew that Abu was a standout as they walked with him into the operating room for his heart surgery. He jumped onto the operating table, grinned, and waved. That was a first for the surgical team. Abu’s eyes sparkled with humor. He showed exceptional courage!

We met Abu during the Minneapolis team’s training trip to the Addis Ababa cardiac center in September.  Abu had been sick with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) for six years. He lives in a town called Wollisso, many hours by car or bus from Ethiopia’s capital. He is 10 years old but looks much smaller because children with RHD don’t thrive and grow like other children.

Abu described what it feels like: “I get very tired, for example if I walk up some stairs. I like soccer but I can’t really play because I’m so tired. My feet swell. I cough a lot, especially at night, and can’t sleep.”

Abu and Abu’s Dad

Abu’s dad told us that at first the doctors thought Abu was suffering from a cold, then a lung infection, and finally stomach problems, and he was treated accordingly.  Eventually they referred him to a private hospital in his region, where he was diagnosed with RHD. This highlights the need to increase awareness and training about RHD in the public health system — key priorities for our Friends of Children’s Heart Fund of Ethiopia.

Limited Options

Abu was sent to the government’s large referral hospital in the capital and put on the national waiting list for open-heart surgery. Abu was in and out of the hospital several times while waiting for surgery. His case was serious. He had been on that waiting list for years, along with thousands of other children.

Abu’s dad had explored whether they could take Abu out of the country for care. He said: “I was told it was very very expensive.  We can’t afford that. We don’t even have much to eat.” Abu’s surgery at the cardiac center went very well.

Ready to Go Home


Here he is, just a few days after surgery, ready to go home. He told us he wants to grow up to be a doctor.