The boys traveled alone from their home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Plano in early December after meeting their doctor, Ted Belanger, in May during his annual trip to the country. Belanger performs back surgeries in Ethiopia, but sometimes gets permission to have certain patients come to Plano for the procedure when the probability of surviving the surgery in their native country is slim.
Scoliosis forces a person’s spine into a sideways curve, usually in the shape of an “S” or a “C.” Depending on the severity, the condition can be treated with either a brace or surgery. A severe case of scoliosis can interfere with breathing if left untreated.
“It’s a social stigma in Ethiopia and it affects people’s outlook on whether they are going to be married and have a family,” Belanger said. “Their belief is I won’t be able to get married or have a family because I have this deformity and that’s really depressing. The surgery is transformative.”
Cheryl Zapata, a chief development officer at the Texas Back Institute, works with Belanger. She said the boys will recover from their surgeries at her home before returning to Ethiopia in early 2017. Zapata said the brothers will be alone during their stay in the U.S. because their father — their mother’s whereabouts are unknown — was unable to get a visa to come with them.
“Ethiopia doesn’t let families travel together,” Zapata said. “They said they really miss their father.”
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