Memories of Dr. Nerayo
By Samuela Zerai
March 23, 2018
Dr. Nerayo Teklemichael was a man of the people who dedicated his life for his country and his passing away is a loss to the country but is heavy on his family and close associates in the armed struggle.
Dr. Nerayo Teklemichael was not an ordinary person or run-of-the-mill doctor. He comes from Adi Nifas, a village in the vicinity of Asmara. He left the village long before I could remember. I saw him for the first time in Addis Abeba. He was a family friend and became family doctor to all people he knew. When I was a he was my child he was my doctor; when I was a teenager he was my mentor, and later as an adult he was my inspiration and a comrade in the fight for the common goal of liberating the people, him in the field and I in my capacity as a supporter.
The first medical doctor to join the EPLF, Dr. Nerayo brought with him good bedside manner and kind approach to mother and child, which earned him the highest respect among his colleagues and mothers. During the struggle he worked tirelessly to improve medical care of the fighters and the Eritrean people in the liberated areas. He trained countless ‘agar-hakim’ (barefoot doctors), who played important role in the medical area at every level of the struggle.
I left for the USA before he joined the struggle and we first met in the mid-eighties in New York City. I was in ‘kekabi shimagle’ (local area leadership committee} and the heroic doctor came to solicit international medical and humanitarian support to alleviate the suffering of the Eritrean people. At first, he did not recognize me. When I introduced myself, he was amazed and told the people around him “This was a child I saw growing up since she was three years old” jokingly. Actually, I was in the 5th grade when I first met him.
During those days, Dr. Nerayo was the face of Eritrea abroad. He travelled far and wide, knocked at many doors to solicit medical and drug donation everywhere possible. I remember once he was invited to address the medical community at Harvard and one of the attendees asked the question “You are a full-fledged board certified pediatrician, right?” Dr. Nerayo with his good sense of humor replied “I am.” The attendee continued his questions “You know you could have made a million dollars here. Why choose to live such a life?” Dr. Nerayo replied, “But I am happy because I do not have any bills to pay.” The audience broke in laughter.
When our first Eritrean Medical Association Symposium was held in 1986 at Riverside Medical center in Secaucus New Jersey, I witnessed Dr. Nerayo addressing over a hundred medical professionals with the hospital CEO Dr.Joseph Cavalla.