Following Yabsira

April 7, 2004

Heather Heilman
Phone: (504) 865-5714

In October, Inside Tulane reported on Yabsira, an outgoing little girl from Ethiopia with severely deformed hands and legs who had found a loving foster home with Tulane staff member Cheryl Borne while undergoing medical treatment in the United States.

yabsiraYabsira and her mother had been homeless in Ethiopia after being violently rejected by members of their extended family, who believe the child's birth defects are a sign she is cursed. Yabsira's American caretakers were trying to raise money to buy the girl and her mother a house with running water in Addis Ababa.

New Orleans responded warmly to Yabsira, donating $18,000 to help her. That's more than enough to decently house her and send her to a good school in Ethiopia when she returns this spring.

"She'll have a house in the city close to good schools and the medical care she'll need," said Borne, clinical coordinator of the Tulane/ Louisiana State University Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Unit. Yabsira has stayed in New Orleans a bit longer than expected.

She had one final surgery in early March in order to make her left thumb functional. No decision has been made about what approach to take with her legs.

But in the meantime, Yabsira will go home at the end of the school year to re-bond with her mother, whom she hasn't seen for more than a year.

Borne worries that readjusting to life in Africa will be hard for Yabsira after a year that included a Noah's themed fifth birthday party, Mardi Gras parades and a weekend at Disney World.

"But having a nice place to go home to will make the transition easier," Borne said. "And the thing about this child is she adjusts to things so well."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000