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Lessons from Africa

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Published:   |   Updated: September 24, 2013 at 11:45 AM

SPRING HILL - In July, Dr. Natalie Leibensperger took her medical expertise more than 7,000 miles away, treating patients in Ethiopia.

Leibensperger, medical director at My Gynecologist, said she had wanted to do a mission trip for a long time, but until recently wasn't able to get time away from her practice.

Leibensperger was filling in for a colleague at Soddo Christian Hospital in south-central Ethiopia. The hospital has just 120 beds to serve the more than 3 million residents in the rural region.

Leibensperger said she was shocked by the poverty in the area.

"I've been a lot of places in the world," Leibensperger said. "There was no technology at all, no cars. They used animals for everything ... people work to survive that day."

"They were the most pleasant, happy people, and very appreciative," Leibensperger added.

One of the more memorable surgeries Leibensperger performed was removing a 18-pound benign tumor from a 90-pound woman who appeared to be pregnant.

Leibensperger's husband and son also went with her to Ethiopia. Karl Leibensperger, who also is a physician, assisted on the administrative end by re-writing the employee manual, and her son, Ian, helped out teaching English classes at the hospital compound. Natalie Leibensperger said her son also picked up some Amharic, the official language of the country.

"What I learned was that a lot of stuff doesn't matter, that clean water is better than anything," Natalie Leibensperger said, adding she didn't want to leave when the time came.

Before leaving, Natalie Leibensperger raised enough money through her church, Vineyard Christian Church, to purchase a hysteroscope for the hospital. The next task for the church is collecting vitamins that will be shipped to Ethiopia and flown by helicopter to rural areas every month.

Natalie Leibensperger said she saw so many Ethiopians with complications from vitamin decencies. Vitamins can be dropped off at My Gynecologist, 11175 County Line Road in Spring Hill, or at the church, 679 S. Broad St. in Brooksville.

Natalie Leibensperger said she hopes all Americans get the chance to visit a third-world country.

"It makes you appreciate what we have here," she said, adding others can learn from people who value the basic, such as family, food, water and shelter, so highly.

"It was the best trip I've ever taken," she said.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday .com

(352) 544-5283

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