Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child


The past two months have been the most humbling and exhilarating experiences of my life. As you may have seen in several media stories, hundreds of social media posts and two posts in this blog space, I was honored to be given the opportunity to perform spine surgery on two youngsters from Ethiopia who have severe spinal deformities.

With Hanukkah just completed, Christmas coming soon and Kwanzaa beginning on December 26, this is a special season for everyone, regardless of race or religion, and I thought it would be a great time to give you an update on these two, amazingly brave kids.

Plus, I want to thank the hundreds of people who contributed to this medical success. They proved the wisdom of the ancient African proverb – It takes a village to raise a child. You may have heard this expression before and have even “Googled” it to learn its derivation. As with many powerful ideas, there are several opinions as to its origin.

An African Proverb

Wikipedia notes several African societies with proverbs which translate to ‘It takes a village’

In Lunyoro (Banyoro) there is a proverb that says ‘Omwana takulila nju emoi,’ whose literal translation is ‘A child does not grow up only in a single home.’ In Kihaya (Bahaya) there is a saying, ‘Omwana taba womoi,’ which translates as ‘A child belongs not to one parent or home.’

The origin of the popular saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is a mystery. Some people believe the saying originated in an ancient African proverb; others believe it came from a Native American Tribe. From wherever this expression originated, its meaning was personified by the groups, businesses and individuals who generously gave their time, financial and human resources to allow these two surgeries to be completed at no charge to the two patients.

The Village


It would be impossible to thank everyone who helped our patients – Samrawit Teshnie and Haymanot Ashmare – literally obtain  new lives. However, I want to try. Here are some members of the “Village” who made this happen.

Medical Center of  Plano which donated both the operating facility and personnel and also the post-operative facilities and outstanding care

Michelle Wright (PA) for taking good care of them in the hospital

Nurses in the ICU and on the 6th floor of Medical Center of  Plano

Ram Haddas for doing gait lab study on Haymanot

Sandy Moore, the general access surgeon

Dr. Raj Arakal, Texas Back Institute for covering other cases for me

Dr. Anna Tran at MCP who is an IM/Peds doctor who helped postoperatively (and went out of her way to do so as the only board certified pediatrician)

Medtronics for donating the implant devices for these complicated procedures

Misonix for donating the use of the bone scalpel for no charge

Dr. Rick Hodes whose organization is responsible for finding and transporting these two kids halfway around the world

Texas Back Institute for supporting this entire process, from the very beginning

My amazing wife, Toni, who has the logistical talent of an air controller!

Cheryl Zapata for opening her home to both patients once they were released from the hospital

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Plano for donating 3D imaging services

Here’s a Medical Update on our Two Patients


I am happy to report that both patients have done amazingly well since surgery. Their fantastic looking x-rays are matched only by the light in their eyes and smiles on their faces when they experienced the overnight transformation of their bodies through surgery. They are comfortable and healing beautifully. We hope they can return to Ethiopia in time for Christmas.

Heartfelt Thanks from Samrawit and Haymanot

Finally, I think it’s fair to say I have learned a lot from being a part of this team – this Village. Overcoming the medical challenges of these procedures has made me a better surgeon, but seeing how our efforts have forever changed the lives of Samrawit and Haymanot has made me a better person. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Happy Holidays.

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