A Strong Heart and New Friends

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The following story comes from Inspiritus, and was featured in their Crossing Oceans newsletter. For more information on the great work LSG does in their Refugee Services department visit their website.

Abdi Mohamed, a young Ethiopian refugee, was picked up at the Atlanta airport on February 9, 2010 by his LSG Case Manager Amina Yusuf. Abdi was 22 years old and alone on his journey to create a new life in the United States. Abdi was separated from his family at age 10 when they fled Ethiopia due to political persecution. He lived on his own in Kenya for the next 11 years, often with other Ethiopian refugees from his Oromo ethnic group. Abdi learned while in Kenya that he had a heart condition, but treatment was not available to him. When he arrived in the U.S., he was eager to work and begin a new life.

As with any arriving refugee who has a documented health condition or medical need, Abdi was taken by LSG to doctors and he learned that his heart condition was very serious and that he would require open heart surgery to live a normal life. Abdi’s plans and desire to go right to work were dashed by the seriousness of his heart condition. Having no experience with the high quality of medical care in the U.S., Abdi was terrified of having the surgery. He was afraid he would not survive the surgery and never have the chance to look for his family. Everyone working with Abdi at LSG and his caring heart surgeon at Emory Hospital tried to persuade him that he must have the surgery before his refugee Medicaid ended in September, but Abdi was not convinced. He felt afraid and alone. But not for long.

LSG mobilized a team of caring and dedicated volunteers to reach out to Abdi and let him know that they would be there for him before, during and after the surgery. Abdi’s LSG “Heart Team” was comprised of members of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta and St. Mark Lutheran Church in Tucker, the ELCA SE Synod Ethiopian Mission Team, and the Ethiopian community in Atlanta. They were Americans and Ethiopians. They visited Abdi while he was still deciding whether or not to have the surgery and let him know that they would be there to visit him in the hospital and to help take care of him during his recovery. One team member had open heart surgery at age 40 and he showed Abdi his scar and described what the surgery and recovery would be like. Abdi finally agreed to have the surgery. Team members were at Emory Hospital on the day of the surgery and visited Abdi daily in the hospital. Others helped prepare Abdi’s apartment for his coming home, visited him during his recovery, brought food and meals for weeks after and provided financial assistance once his refugee assistance and Medicaid ended a month after the surgery.

Abdi and his LSG Heart Team of volunteers and staff gathered to celebrate his successful surgery and good health at an Ethiopian restaurant about a month after the surgery. Abdi was like a new young man: healthy and strong, happy and hopeful. Many of the team were meeting each other for the first time. It was a joyous gathering of people whose hearts had all been strengthened by mutual caring, support and service. A month later, Abdi and the LSG Heart Team had further cause for celebration. As of November 1, Abdi’s recovery was complete and his Emory surgeon cleared him for any kind of employment. On November 9, Abdi started his first job in the U.S. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Dunwoody! Abdi has a strong and healthy heart. He’s realized his dream of working in the U.S. And most importantly, he is no longer alone – he and the LSG Heart Team have each other as friends for life.

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