It is more than 8,300 miles between Dallas/Fort Worth and Ethiopia and Dr. Ted Belanger, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute, has made this trip many times since 2010, when he began his mission to help youngsters in this third world country overcome the ravages of scoliosis. While there is no cure for this painful and debilitating condition, which causes curvature of the spine, surgical procedures can enable a gradual straightening of the spine.
In 2015, two young patients had their lives completely and miraculously changed through the efforts of Dr. Belanger and Medical City Plano. This story clearly touched the hearts and minds of DFW and the entire world.
“Our latest project is the second verse of this same song,” Dr. Belanger noted in a recent interview.
Twin Brothers with Scoliosis Come to America Hoping for Help
Dr. Belanger will be operating on the twin brothers with this spinal deformity as a part of his commitment to using his skills and the resources of Medical City Plano to make a difference in the lives of people who have no other medical options.
“My mission started with a referral from a friend in Ethiopia who suggested I visit and determine if there was any contribution a spine surgeon could make,” Dr. Belanger said. “I discovered that there was an endless need for medical care, including complicated spine surgery.
“We started building this program with annual trips to the country, providing both care and education for medical practitioners there.
In his most recent mission trip, Dr. Belanger met two twin orphan brothers – Tamirat and Markos Bogale – whose spinal deformities were so profound that it would be impossible to perform reconstruction surgery in Ethiopia. Click on the video below for more about these brothers.
The Life-Changing Process Begins
The twins were accompanied on that long trip to the DFW airport by Dr. Rick Hodes, who lives in Ethiopia and was integral to the success of last year’s successful surgery. They will be staying with TBI executive Cheryl Zapata, who made sure they felt at home from their first day in America.
Here’s what NBC 5 reported on the twins introduction to America.
Anyone Can Help
“My hope is that we will continue to grow this project,” Dr. Belanger said. “My dream would be that everyone who learns about this effort would be inspired to support it or other humanitarian medical missions like it. We have a website which enables anyone to contribute any amount of money to support our efforts.
“The organization with which we are associated is called ‘Conscience International’. They do a variety of excellent programs, not all of which are medical. We are their largest medical program.”
There are many ‘moving parts’ to this type of international humanitarian mission and there are many people whose support make it possible.
“I certainly don’t do this alone,” Dr. Belanger noted, “This would not be possible without the financial and human resources contributed by Texas Back Institute and Medical City Plano. This hospital allows the surgery to occur in their facility free of charge to the patients; all of the nursing staff, anesthesia and equipment are all pro bono.
“Many of the people at Texas Back Institute take on behind-the-scenes duties in addition to their normal work to make this possible. This includes everything from legal work, hosting the patients, acting as drivers and guardians for the patients and allowing them to have this life-changing surgery.
“Another important contributor is Dr. Rick Hodes. He is an American physician living in Ethiopia who has dedicated himself to getting healthcare to the neediest of the country. He’s our ‘man on the ground’ who finds the patients, provides x-rays and coordinates their travel to America.
“The spinal implants, the screws and rods necessary for these procedures, are donated by Medtronic and Nuvasive. We would not be able to have the surgery without these two companies’ help.
Nuvasive has a new, magnetically expanding rod which acts as traction. It will require two stages for this procedure. Click on the video for Dr. Belanger’s explanation of the unique way of gradually correcting this deformity.
Follow the Twins Through This Amazing Experience
“There is no end to the need in the world for healthcare,” he said. “There are more than 95,000,000 people in Ethiopia and I might be the only spinal deformity surgeon with any connection to this country. I can’t possibly take care of all of these people.
“Every year we see hundreds and hundreds of patients with complicated spinal deformities that I can provide care to. If anyone is out there thinking, ‘gee, I wonder if anybody needs my help,’ I’m certain that they do. It is just a matter of finding it and understanding how to provide it.”
If you would like to follow the medical experiences of these two, brave brothers – Tamrat and Markos Bogale – as they undergo life-changing treatment for scoliosis, join us on Facebook for daily updates on their progress. To contribute to Dr. Belanger’s mission in Ethiopia, click here.
In many ways, the efforts of Dr. Ted Belanger and the hundreds of other people and healthcare companies involved with this mission exemplify the true meaning of the holiday season. It’s about heartfelt giving and hoping for peace on earth and goodwill toward men…even if they happen to be two young men from the other side of the world.