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Theodore Belanger MD and his team are raising money to change the lives of children in Ethiopia, Africa. PLEASE Show your support!

Theodore Belanger MD has been nominated for the second year in a row, after his 5th trip in 6 years to Ethiopia, for the AAOS Humanitarian Award of the year.

He is a Board Certified Orthopedic Spine Surgeon of Texas back Institute, Chief of Surgery (2nd year in a row also) at Presbyterian Hospital of Rockwall, Texas and Director of Scoliosis at Medical City of Plano, Texas. He is also an amazing husband and father.

Our mission is to provide advanced surgical spine care to the underserved in Africa who suffer from complex spine problems including deformities, spine tumors, infections, trauma and degenerative conditions.

Your donations helped us do preform 21 successful spine surgeries this year. We brought a team of 9 people which made up 4 spine surgeons, an anesthesiologist, an x-ray tech and several medical assistants. Without your continued support, this will not be possible.

Changing young lives through spine surgery

Sonia Azad, WFAA9:31 a.m. CDT October 29, 2015

(Photo: WFAA)


Haymanot Asmare came to America three days ago. One day the 20-year-old says he wants to be one of the world’s best marathon runners.

But before he can run, doctors at The Medical Center of Plano will help him to stand tall.

"He has a diagnosis called ankylosing spondylitis," explained spine surgeon Dr. Theodore Belanger. "His entire spine has been fused from his shoulders to the pelvis ... This is a very complex case; I anticipate the surgery will take literally all day."

Belanger traveled to Ethiopia where he met and chose Haymanot and 13-year-old Samrawit Adnew for life-changing surgery.

"I am happy to do surgery, because I want to do sports and go to school," Samrawit said.

Spine surgeon Dr. Theodore Belanger talks with his two young Ethiopian patients. (Photo: WFAA)

“(Samrawit) has severe scoliosis,” Belanger explained. “Her right shoulder is elevated and you can see she has a large lump on her back. That is because of the curvature of her spine to the left.”

While both cases are severe, they are not rare in Ethiopia. Spinal deformities are common because of genetic issues and diseases like tuberculosis and polio. Left untreated, sickness can cause infection in the spine and be fatal.

“The goal will be to get him as straight as possible,” Belanger said. He will perform an aggressive 12-hour surgery to correct Haymanot’s spine—carefully breaking it in one or two areas, realigning it, then stabilizing it by installing screws and rods from the upper thoracic spine to the pelvis.

"It’s a risk worth taking, because the future for him is not very bright if we leave him how he is," Belanger said. "When he walks and stands up as straight as he possibly can, his chest is aiming at the floor ... so if we don’t do it, eventually he will be so bent over that he’ll have to walk backwards looking between his legs."

Dr. Theodore Belanger examines the spine of Ethiopian patient Samrawit Adnew. (Photo: WFAA)

The doctor said he selected  Samrawit because her surgery couldn’t wait another year.

Haymanot and Samrawit are not the first Ethiopians Dr. Belanger has helped, but they are the first two he’s brought back to North Texas from Africa.

"My first trip was in 2010 ... I met Dr. Rick Hodes," he said.

"I’m the only spine doctor for 95 million people," Dr. Hodes added.

North Texas doctors are treating some of the most severe cases of scoliosis in the world

Hodes started a spine program in Ethiopia in 2006 with 20 patients. By 2014, he had 400 new spine patients. So far this year, he’s seen 350 new spine patients... all waiting for surgery.

Dr. Hodes opens his home to those awaiting operations, and went a step farther with two young boys suffering from extreme deformities.

"I realized that I could adopt them, add them to my health insurance, and get them surgery in the United States," he said. "That’s eventually what I did."

His son, Dejene Hodes, came to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas for spine surgery in 2002. Similar to Haymanot, Dejene’s spine was at a 90-degree angle.

Dejene Hodes had a severe spinal deformation before life-changing surgery. (Photo: Courtesy)

"Dejene is an abandoned orphan with tuberculosis of the spine who was living in the room for sick, unadoptable kids at Mother Teresa's mission," Hodes said.

Dejene Hodes says he has no problems after surgery to correct a spinal defect. (Photo: WFAA)

The tragic death of Dejene’s mother’s may have ironically saved his own life. Without surgery, his spine could have collapsed — leaving him paralyzed or even dead.

"I have no problems. Very lucky," he said.

Dejene never knew his biological father. He met Dr. Hodes at the most vulnerable point of his young life. Their fateful meeting led to his transformation.

After the surgery, I can pretty much do anything," Dejene said. "I play a lot of sports, do Taekwondo, and all that stuff."

Dejene graduated high school in Dallas and returned to Ethiopia to help his father serve other young patients – like Haymanat and Samrawit — around the world.

"I think it helps when I say, 'I used to be like you,' and I show my picture and stuff, it really helps," Dejene said.

“It’s sort of like passing the baton,” Hodes said. “(Dejene) came to Dallas, had his life changed and now returns with two other kids in order to help them.”

Dr. Hodes wants to open a spine center and train Ethiopians to do their own surgeries. They have their first team going to train Ethiopians in two weeks.







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