From Ethiopia to Louisville, one child's journey toward normalcy

From Ethiopia to Louisville, one child's journey toward normalcy
Published: Aug. 6, 2015 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2015 at 6:34 PM EDT
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Dr. Rolando Puno (Source: Natalia Martinez, WAVE 3 News)
Dr. Rolando Puno (Source: Natalia Martinez, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For years, Mosell Mulugeta Wakero was used to never leaving the house without a jacket draped over his back, regardless of the weather. He would always position himself so that he'd be the last in line.

Mosell, 15, has something he tries to hide.

"When other people see my back, it's like 'Why is he here?' kind of like that," Mosell tells us.

Mosell suffers from Kyphoscoliosis. His spine curves and arches through his upper body. It is noticeable, and has caused the teen and his family much pain.

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"I try to hide as much as possible," Mosell confesses. "You're different from others."

Mosell lives in Ethiopia. He tells us he is constantly bullied, ostracized and made fun of. After school, he waits for everyone to leave before he does, to avoid them seeing him from behind.

All of that is about to change. The teen is just days away from a surgery at Kosair Children's Hospital to correct the curvature of his spine. Dr. Rolando Puno, a Spine Surgeon at Norton Leatherman Spine Center heard of Mosell's case and decided to help.

"He is being treated differently by people his age," the doctor told us. "I feel bad for him and uh, I see that all the time."

Dr. Puno has conducted surgeries, like the one Mosell is scheduled for, for children in other countries, for free. In most cases he explains, the country's hospitals aren't equipped for such procedures. In Mosell's case, a list of organizations jumped in to help pay for his trip, his stay, the surgery, and even the metal rod and equipment that will soon be placed in his spine.
For Dr. Puno, it's all about being able to help the patient live a normal life. He feels grateful for being able to step into the lives of these children, and change them for the better. He explains his job has a lot of rewards.

"Maybe two special moments. One, is when they come to you and they feel that there is actually a solution to their problem, so that's one. And the other one is when they come back, let's say a month later or three months later and say 'Hey, I feel normal now, can I go ahead and play sports?'""

That's something that Mosell is most excited about.

"Especially with Dr. Puno, I believe I'm in good hands," Mosell says.

Mosell is eternally grateful for what the doctor is about to do for him and his family.

"Now, it's like a, a light shining from the sky on us," he says "It feels good."

Several people and departments came together to make this a reality. The anesthesiologist and the support staff are donating their time. Alphatec is donating the equipment used in the surgery. The Children's Hospital Foundation also pitched in with $25,000 towards the surgery.

Mosell will get the surgery on Tuesday, August 11that Kosair Children's Hospital. He will stay in Louisville for a few weeks after the procedure, visit some family, then head back to Ethiopia where Mosell says he is excited to start a new chapter in his life.  

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