UPDATE: His first and last day at Blair

Feb. 22, 2005, midnight | By Allison Elvove Fidan Karimova | 16 years, 2 months ago

In memory of Abrahm Gurmu

On Monday, Jan. 31, junior Abrahm Gurmu died of heart disease. It was his first day at Blair.

Abrahm, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, came to America eight months ago to pursue a better education. "He was very eager to go to school," said Abrahm's cousin, senior Namerud Admasu. Abrahm was also a model student back at home in Addis Keteema School, according to his older brother, Dawit Gurmu, who said Abrahm was one of 10,000 students, out of a pool of five million, to receive a high score on an important nationwide exam.

When he first arrived in America, Abrahm attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) high school. He later was transferred to Blair because B-CC did not provide transportation from school to his house. According to Admasu, Abrahm was very excited about challenging himself academically at Blair. The last time Admasu saw Abrahm was when Abrahm was running to catch his departing bus after school. Later that day, Admasu was shocked to receive a call from Abrahm's family telling her of Abrahm's death. "I dropped the phone and started to cry," she said.

Abrahm had had heart valve problems ever since he was a young boy, a medical complication that, according to Inteli Health, is either congenital (present or acquired at birth) or acquired (occurring in a valve that was normal at birth). In Abrahm's case, the defect was congenital. He had a small heart tube, but it caused Abrahm to have difficulty breathing at times and would sometimes cause him to throw up blood.

When Abrahm missed his bus, he called his brother, Aleemneh Gurmu, to pick him up. They headed home, but upon reaching the house, Aleemneh realized that Abrahm was not feeling well and decided to take him to the Washington Adventist Hospital. According to the family, the brothers arrived at the hospital at 5 p.m., where Abrahm was told to wait in the waiting room. When the doctors saw him at 9:54 p.m., according to Abrahm's family, Aleemneh called his older brother, Dawit, to tell him where they were. Dawit collected all of Abrahm's necessary documents and headed to the hospital. However, he received another phone call, this time from the doctor, informing him that Abrahm had passed away at 10:54 p.m.

Because of a federal law that requires the protection of patient privacy and medical records (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), the Washington Adventist Hospital is unable to release information regarding the case. "Without a written consent from the family, we can't even confirm or deny that the patient was here," said Communications Director of Adventist Health Care Euphia Smith. Smith especially stressed the legal and ethical obligations of protecting patient confidentiality. "We take patient privacy very carefully," she said. "Our primary concern has to be about our patients."

Dawit believes that his brother could have been saved if the doctors had acted faster. "Every day, I think about how he could have still been here if the doctors responded sooner, instead of having him stay in the waiting room," he said.

According to Smith, however, hospitals are bound by federal law to have nurses receive and treat patients before sending them to the waiting room (the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act). The Washington Adventist Hospital's policy is to "reach out to patients' families and provide a forum for asking questions," Smith added.

Abrahm's family said that the most remarkable aspect of Abrahm was his bravery. Despite the hardship he encountered, Abrahm never complained. Dawit explained that Abrahm would usually not share how he truly felt because he did not want anyone to think he was weak. Abrahm's dream, according to the family, was to become a cardiologist and help people with similar heart problems.

Smith expressed her condolences concerning the death of the Blair student. "It must be absolute terror to experience something like this," she said. "Please accept my sympathy for the grief your school community must be experiencing."

Abrahm's mother and sister took the body back to Ethiopia for burial.

Last updated: May 4, 2021, 10:21 a.m.

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Allison Elvove. Allison Elvove was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2004-2005 school year. She wrote more than 70 articles while on the staff and supervised 40 student journalists, editing articles on a daily basis. During her time as editor, Silver Chips Online won the … More »

Fidan Karimova. Fidan is a SENIOR!!! She is happy to be a part of the Silver Chips staff, considering that it's the best high school newspaper ever! She would also like to point out that she is one of two Azerbaijani students at Blair and proud to … More »

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