Two amazing kids get life-saving spine surgery

Haymanot and Samrawit, 2 Ethiopians ​now​ in Dallas​,​ Texas, have been rebuilt!

And what a difference! Samrawit, a 12 year old, 6th grade student at the top of her class,​ hails​ from a rural area outside Addis Ababa​. She​ has progressive scoliosis. In the past year, her spine deteriorated from a 60 degree angle to an 89 degree deformity – take a look at her recent scan (below).

Click to watch a video of Haymanot, Samrawit, and Dr. Hodes on the news.

Samrawit was accepted for free surgery by Dr. Theodore Belanger of​ ​Texas Back Institute in Dallas, at Medical Center of Plano​ which provided free hospital care​. ​Samrawit underwent successful surgery a few days ago. She is now very straight, with 2 rods and 25 screws, donated by Medtronic. She is nearly 4 inches taller. Samrawit wants to return to Ethiopia as soon as she can – to become an astronomer!

Former spine patient ​Dejene Hodes brought ​Samrawit​ to Dallas​, a​long with​ Haymanot, age 20, from rural Gojjam. ​ Dr. Rick first met Haymanot when he appeared at a Catholic mission, appealing for food and assistance. He had a very severe deformity – a huge hunchback (kyphosis)​​​ caused by anklyosing spondylitis. Haymanot walked slowly, stooped over, supported by a stick. He was very malnourished, weighing less than 90 pounds.

Recently we started a nutritional support program, giving Haymanot 1,000 extra calories a day in PlumpyNut nutritional supplement, and sent him to school to study English. Haymanot ​gained 12 pounds, and ​excelled in school. He ​regained strength​. Two weeks ago, ​they​ boarded Ethiopian Airlines​, and headed to America​. Scans done in Dallas confirmed his diagnosis, but opened the possibility of simpler surgery involving multiple cuts in his backbones (osteotomies), rather than removal of a large chunk of bone. This is simpler surgery, with less blood loss and lower complication rate. Recently ​Dr. Belanger operated for a full​ day​. ​Hours later, Haymanot​ was very straight​, with a back straightened by rods and over 20 screws. Now​,​​ overjoyed about the success of his surgery​,​​ he wants to run a marathon​!​

It’s very, very difficult to get free spine surgery in the USA. Working together with the amazing Dr. Belanger, Medtronic, and Medical Center of Plano, we have been able to completely change the ​lives​ of these 2​ brave​ kids. The Ethiopian community in Dallas has been visiting​,​ bringing Ethiopian food every day. Thank you, thank you to all who have helped these youths!

– Dr. Rick Hodes

Sp Haymanot Asmare 6-2011 - 7-2011 37

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