"It's a blessing not given to everybody," he said.
He came from the nation of Togo in west Africa. He came to play soccer at Bellevue University. But he blew out his knee before his Bruins' career even began, underwent surgery, went home. And then he came back. This time with academics as his top priority.
Without a soccer scholarship, he took a job working in environmental services, here at the medical center. He cleaned patient rooms and clinical areas. He started to think about a career in health care.
Running late to an environmental services staff meeting one day, he bumped into Nebraska Medicine executive Marty Carmody, who now lives in Michigan. Not long after their chance meeting, Carmody was at his daughter's youth soccer game and was impressed by how the referee diffused a potentially volatile situation. It was Abalo! Carmody approached him after the game -- Abalo worked at the med center, went to school, and now soccer games, too?
When Abalo applied for health professions programs at Clarkson College, Carmody wrote a letter of recommendation. Abalo eventually earned degrees in radiation technology and medical imaging. He later became certified in sterile processing.
He also was blessed with an American wife, Blythe, and they had an American son, Richmond. Then, Abalo became an American, too. He became a U.S. citizen in 2011.
And he enrolled in UNMC's clinical perfusion program. His long-term goal is to someday bring heart surgery (clinical perfusionists operate heart-lung machines during these surgeries) to Togo. Today, those who need heart surgery must have enough money to leave the country.
Currently, he's getting soccer balls and school supplies to the kids of his old hometown, all while juggling the responsibilities of work, family, and, oh, yes, another health professions degree.
"It has not been easy for me," or, he added, his wife. "But we are managing it."
His parents can't make his UNMC graduation. But his American family, his in-laws, will be there.
It is the end of one story. But the beginning of another. He is determined the children of Togo won't have to come to America to be successful. But, he is so happy that he has.
Congratulations Ralph. A long journey that I will never know. I was born in America to a hard working father and mother. My father always said that good luck follows hard work. God Bless you and your family.
Determination and commitment are two words that come to mind when I think of Ralph. I couldn’t be more proud of what he has already accomplished and I look forward to witnessing the new trails he will be blazing as a result of his new Master’s in Perfusion Science. Congratulations, Ralph!
Amazing. Well done man. Congrat
Great story. Congratulations Mr Abalo.
Hummm....tears falling off my eyes, son. You made it. Everything is possible. Just know who you are and know where you are going. God bless!
Ralph, your story is incredibly inspirational. Congratulations on earning your Clinical Perfusion degree, and best wishes to you and your family as you embark on this next stage of your already very successful career.
Congrats brother. I can proudly said I witnessed your unmc' s journey. All the best in your new career. Well deserved
Nice story. Congrats on your achievement!
Congratulations! What a wonderful and inspiring story!
Wonderful story about your journey in life. Your determination/drive has helped you in achieving your goals. Next chapter ahead. Proud to have you as part of our family.
Congratulations Bro, you made it and we are proud of you...
Congratulations! It is an honor to have helped you along your journey. Hopefully, we will continue to see you at the Library.
Wow bro, I am not surprised. That's what you're. No matter how difficult it was. You become an ample for us. May God protect you and poured out his blessing upon your family. Congratulations!!!
Many congratulations. You have worked very hard and your determination and drive is inspiring. I am so happy to hear of your successes and contributions. What a great story.
Congratulations Ralph! You are a positive person, your academic and life journey are inspiring to us all!
This is wonderful. Congratulations, Ralph!