Nobel Habib’s hip was dislocated during his birth in an Ethiopian village in December 2002. Because of this and chronic bone malformations, he can barely walk.
Thanks to the efforts of several Israeli strangers, the Christian teen is about to undergo a series of surgical treatments in Boston at no charge.
The story starts with a chance meeting in Ethiopia. When Nobel was 11, his mother brought him to Dr. Richard Hodes (“Dr. Rick”), medical director of Ethiopia for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and senior consultant at a Catholic mission for the ill.
Lori and Doron Bacher from Ra’anana, Israel, were touring the clinic that day during their 30th wedding anniversary trip to Ethiopia.
“We were waiting to see Dr. Rick, and we took one look at [Nobel] walking and felt we just had to help him,” Lori Bacher tells ISRAEL21c. “This kind of situation shouldn’t happen in this day and age.”
Hodes told the Bachers that Nobel’s condition could not be treated in Ethiopia. If they wanted to help, they would have to find a sponsor for surgeries required to lengthen the boy’s lame leg and replace his hips and knees.
The Bachers eventually turned to their friend Jack de Lowe, voluntary international coordinator for Ezra LeMarpeh, an Israeli nonprofit organization run by Israel Prize winner Rabbi Elimelech Firer to help people locate the best possible treatment and doctors worldwide.
“Rabbi Firer looked at the x-rays, which were not such good quality, but he thought Nobel would be a candidate for surgery,” de Lowe tells ISRAEL21c.
“Rabbi Firer determined that Nobel’s best chance would be in the hands of Dr. Gleeson Rebello at Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston. Shriners doesn’t take many foreign patients, but when they do it’s free, and that’s important because a boy from a village outside Addis Ababa can’t get the money for three to four surgeries.”
Shriners agreed, but it took another year and a half to arrange a medical visa from the United States. New York attorney Samuel Abady and his wife, Dr. Jane Watson, a physician, helped with the lengthy paperwork process. A friend of the Bachers in Boston helped line up an interpreter, drivers, food and accommodations.
Before going on to Boston on September 18, Nobel and his mother spent four days in Israel with the Bachers.
“We picked them up at the airport, and the Interior Ministry [representative there] found an interpreter because they did not know English,” says Lori Bacher, an English teacher.
She gave the mother and son 10 hours of English instruction – basics such as body parts — before they took off for Boston.
“We have a dear [Ethiopian] friend who runs a restaurant in Ra’anana and helped us interpret,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “We also used body language to understand one another. We had a very nice time. They’d never seen the sea before so we spent a lot of time at the beach.”
Herzliya has an accessible beach with an elevator, providing a perfect solution for Nobel.
Lori Bacher regrets only that she didn’t have a chance to take them to the Israeli capital. “I promised once he has all his operations, in a year and a half to two years, we’ll go to Jerusalem.”
“One of the most amazing parts of this wonderful heartwarming story is that with the exception of Dr. Rick, Lori and Doron Bacher, none of the people involved have ever met Nobel and his mother,” notes de Lowe.
For more information or to donate toward Nobel’s expenses, click here.