An Ethiopian Tale: A Story of a Young Man who Cheated Death Twice to Graduate from Texas Heart Institute

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This is a story of a young Ethiopian man, named Mesfin Yana, who cheated death twice, yet persevered through an incredible journey of self-development and success.

By Diane Alexis Dollar (Forever on the Fly) |

One of the nicest perks of being a pilot are the fantastic airline privileges. Flying standby and jump seating can be stressful if you’re in a time crunch. However, if you have the time, waiting a few hours its well worth a free flight. This morning I have been waiting almost six hours to board my flight to Houston, but at least it has given me time to jot a few things down! This will be my first time visiting the city of Houston, and I can’t think of a better reason than family. Mesfin Yana (goes by Mesfin) has no idea that I am coming to his graduation muahah. He has always loved to surprise people with his presence so I figured I would give a taste of his own medicine! The Texas Heart Institute is home to some of the most influential heart surgeons and researchers in history. Mesfin will be one of the graduates of the 2017 Cardiovascular Perfusionist class. And for those of you who do not know, a Cardiovascular Perfusionist runs and operates the heart and lung machines used during open heart surgery. The program is world class and well known for it’s rigorous training course and the extensive clinical hands on experience it gives it’s students. You could imagine how incredibly proud I am of his accomplishment.

Growth is so relative. You can turn nothing into something, something into more, more into something greater and so on. Up and up to infinity you could grow, but every step is nonetheless growth. And no stage is any less important than the last. You can’t skip a step. There is no going from nothing to infinitely incredible. Hard work and perseverance through struggle in the pursuit of something greater is the only way to go. I don’t know any other human being on this wonderful planet that we call Earth who understands this more than my brother Mesfin Yana. This is a story of a young man who cheated death twice, yet persevered through an incredible journey of self development and success.


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Mesfin was born and raised in a small village located in southern Ethiopia. At a young age he was plagued with a bad case of strep throat-mind you his village was lacking a quirky pediatrician to administer a quick round of antibiotics and a popsicle to send him on his merry way.

Continue reading this story at Forever on the Fly
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B.C. Woman Hopes Ethiopians in Seattle Will Help Her Find a Bone-marrow Donor

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Elsa Nega, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, has turned her donor search to Seattle, knowing the city has a large Ethiopian community.

By Paige Gross (The Seattle Times) |

Elsa Nega had gotten her two kids ready and was running to catch her morning bus when she could tell something was wrong.

The 38-year-old went to the emergency room, and into intensive care. The next day, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia — a blood cancer that occurs most commonly in children.


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Doctors recommended chemotherapy, but they told her she would need a bone-marrow transplant to replace her unhealthy blood-forming cells with new ones.

That was in early February, and the Vancouver, B.C., resident’s search for a donor continues to be daunting — because she is Ethiopian.

A successful donor shares the same ethnic background as a patient, doctors told her. But for someone with African descent, that’s a lofty task — much of the donor registry is Caucasian, and few people of color find matches quickly.

Elsa Nega now spends her days receiving chemotherapy and spending time with her children. She has turned her donor search to Seattle, knowing the city has a large Ethiopian community.

“It’s not easy,” Elsa Nega said. “In the morning I’m OK, in the afternoon I’m not. But there are so many people in Seattle, maybe my chances are better.”

When Elsa Nega didn’t match with either of her siblings, who still live in Ethiopia, or anybody on Canadian or international registries, family and friends began a campaign encouraging people to register as donors.

Continue reading this story at The Seattle Times
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Family Fights to Bring Two Ethiopian Orphans to Ethiopia

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Katie and David Norton undergone a lengthy and, at times, emotionally exhausting journey to adopt two Ethiopian orphans (4-year-old boys)

By Melissa Colorado (KARE) |

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn.―They say parenthood requires love, not DNA. Katie and David Norton of St. Louis Park know that very well.

The Nortons, in their early 30s, are parents to three biological children and for the last four years, they’ve undergone a lengthy and, at times, emotionally exhausting journey to adopt two 4-year-old boys, Bo and Sebi, from Ethiopia.


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“(Adoption) is a joy and a privilege. It’s not something we felt obligated to do. It’s not even something that feels out of the ordinary for us,” said Katie Norton, a stay-at-home mom. “The journey of adopting has been long and hard. We knew that going in, but it’s definitely been longer and harder than we anticipated.”

In April, Katie Norton traveled to Ethiopia to appear before a court and finalize the adoption process. A judge signed a decree that certified the Nortons were the legal parents of Bo. Sebi was still one signature away from becoming a Norton.

Suddenly, the Ethiopian government made a stunning announcement.

“They issued an indefinite suspension on adoptions,” recalled Katie. “They didn’t give us a reason and they haven’t given the American embassy a reason. They just stated that they aren’t working on adoptions right now.”

The Nortons were forced to tell the boys that they would not be coming home to Minnesota with them.

‘It’s devastating. And to watch their faces, ” Katie said. “They would both just cry and cry because they want to come home with us. They’ve seen other kids go home. They’re ready.”

When she returned to Minnesota, Katie Norton went straight to work. Her mission  – find a way to bring the boys to the Twin Cities. She reached out to Minnesota lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is the co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.

Continue reading this story at KARE11.com
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Ethiopian Woman’s Family in Vancouver (Canada) Pleading for Help Finding a Bone Marrow Donor

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“I love to live. I want to be with my kids. I want to smile again. I want to play with them again. If you save my life, you will save my whole family,” said Elsa Nega in her video appeal for a donor.

By Cory Correia (CBC News) |

Vancouver surgeon and the University of British Columbia (UBC) professor Ronald Lett is appealing to the public for help in finding a bone marrow transplant for his wife Elizabeth Nega, who has an aggressive form of leukemia.

Elizabeth Nega, better known as Elsa Nega, discovered that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. However, the Ethiopian Canadian wife and mother of two has been unable to find a match because of the low number of African donors.


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Ronald Lett and Elsa Nega are now reaching out to people of African descent to register as bone marrow donors. They’ve started a website, match4elsa.com, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts, to find Elsa and other African-Canadians life saving transplants.

“I love to live. I want to be with my kids. I want to smile again. I want to play with them again. If you save my life, you will save my whole family,” said Elsa Nega in her video appeal for a donor.

Lett is the founder and international director of the charity, Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS). He met Elsa in Ethiopia while he was there training local doctors to perform essential surgeries.

After dedicating his life to helping others, Lett says being unable to help his wife in her time of need has been difficult.

“I helplessly watch as the love of my life suffers terribly, has devastating complications from her treatment but has no promise of a cure,” said Lett.

“Transplant, which only works half the time, is our only hope and all the news concerning a match for Elsa has been bad too.”

Lack of donor diversity 

Since discovering that she had leukemia, Elsa has been put through several rounds of chemotherapy, but after failing to go into remission, obtaining stem cells from a bone marrow transplant has become her only hope of recovery.

Her brother and sister in Ethiopia were her best chance, but neither were a match.

The larger issue in finding a donor for Elsa is the lack of diversity in the donor registry.

Of the 405,000 Canadians on the stem cell registry, only 800 have an African background, and none are a match for Elsa Nega, according to Chris van Doorn with the One Match Program.

Continue reading this story at CBC News
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