PLANO — Tamirat Bogale’s spine was so curved that the teenager would often lose his breath while performing daily tasks, including carrying his backpack during his 45-minute trek to school.
Tamirat, 16, said that walking with his spine’s 125-degree curvature became so difficult for him to manage three years ago, he had to stay home and start seventh grade a year late.
“It was also hard to balance,” he said. “Now it’s good.”
Tamirat and his twin brother, Marcos, whose spine was also curved, traveled alone from their home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Plano in December to undergo several surgeries to treat their severe scoliosis.
The disease forces the spine to curve or twist, 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.
After a couple of parting celebrations, the teens will return to Ethiopia on Wednesday morning to reunite with their father, four months after their first surgery. They’ll take with them straighter spines and several breathtaking stories from their first trip away from home.
“Everything is so nice,” Tamirat said in broken English tinged with an African accent. “There is no more pain.”
The teens said one of the highlights from their trip to Texas was meeting former St.Kitts-Nevis International Captain and FC Dallas soccer player Atiba Harris in December while they recovered at Medical City Plano. Harris gifted each brother an FC Dallas jersey and a pair of flip-flops from St. Kitts. which the brothers said they wear as often as they can. Harris first befriended the twins in December after hearing their story and has visited them throughout their ordeal.
The team also invited them to participate in a practice match in February once they had recovered. The boys said a game of soccer, which would have previously caused them a lot of pain, is now one of their favorite after-school activities.
“We saw the big stadium,” Marcos said, referring to Toyota Stadium, the soccer team’s Frisco home. “We went to a game and it was nice.”
Joe and Cheryl Zapata hosted the twins in their Plano home. Cheryl Zapata said that since their surgery, Marcos and Tamirat have not only gained a few inches in height, but they also gained confidence in themselves.