Almost thirty years after his life-saving operation Adugna Abebe returned to Switzerland to revisit the stages of his treatment. Once more Susanne Wachti, his guide at that time, brought him to Massongex in her small car.
Adugna suffered from a massive brain tumour which pressed on his eyes (hydrocephalus caused by a retinoblastoma). This lead to his blindness, and continued to grow. When he was sixteen Adugna was informed that without appropriate treatment he would soon die, and that only an operation could save him. In the 1980s in Ethiopia this was not feasible.
Thereupon the local Tdh delegation organised Adugna’s transfer to Switzerland, and in July 1984 at the age of seventeen he and two other sick children flew here to receive the necessary medical attention. He was operated upon on 16th July and could leave the hospital six weeks later. After his convalescence in the children’s home in Massongex in Valais (see small picture above) he was able to return to Ethiopia exactly three months after his departure.
Today Adugna lives in London, where he has completed studies in history, geography, sociology and in political science. He is married and father of two girls aged twelve and fourteen. Almost thirty years after his “return to life” he revisited Switzerland with his wife, who attended him and described to him the scenery and places they visited, and the people they met.
During his visit to the head offices of Terre des hommes in Lausanne, Adugna talked of the other fifteen or so children who were in Massongex at the same time as he, as well as of those who cared for him there. He remembered especially Susanne Wachti, his voluntary escort, who accompanied him then from the hospital to the children’s home in Valais.
It was through her participation in the annual orange sale that Susanne came to Tdh. She escorted Adugna not only because of her knowledge of English but also because she was especially touched by his misfortune; she had a son of the same age. “I was overjoyed when I was able to take the youngster healed back to the airport”, she recounted, visibly touched. Since then she has continued as escort and guide because she lives near the airport – and even more so because she is one of the few who is willing to drive in all weathers, even in winter when it snows.
Adugna at the head offices of Tdh accompanied by his former guide and by his wife.
Adugna at the time of his convalescence in Massongex in 1984.