Twin boys from Ethiopia who came to North Texas for life-changing back surgeries got the chance to kick around soccer balls with FC Dallas players Tuesday morning.
Markos and Tamirat Bogale, 17, landed in America in early December.
For years, both boys suffered from severe cases of scoliosis.
Tamirat's spine was curved at 120 degrees, while Markos's was curved at 60 degrees. It was difficult for them to stand up straight.
But that was before North Texas doctors gave them the medical help they needed.
Dr. Ted Belanger, a spine surgeon with the Texas Back Institute, met Tamirat and Markos during a medical pilgrimage to Ethiopia last year. Texas Back then teamed up with Medical City Plano to provide the twins care free of charge.
The twins underwent back surgery just days before Christmas.
During their recovery, the boys formed an unlikely friendship with FC Dallas defender Atiba Harris, who came to visit them at the hospital and at home.
"It was kind of bittersweet, you know. Sad to see them going through what they were going through with the spinal issues, but happy to see them smiling at the same time," Harris said.
On Tuesday, the twins laced up brand-new cleats and joined FC Dallas players during practice.
Standing tall, they wore custom jerseys that players signed afterwards.
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"They never take those jerseys off," Harris said, laughing.
"I'm feeling good," Tamirat said. "It's exciting."
He is now nearly five inches taller, but will undergo one more surgery on Friday.
After six to eight weeks of recovery, the twins will head back home to Ethiopia.
They have been living with Cheryl Zapata, chief development officer at the Texas Back Institute, for the last several months.
"I haven't seen so many smiles on them in a long time," Zapata said, watching as "her boys" played on the field.
"Trying to get the jerseys off of them has become a chore. I had to tell them last night, 'No, seriously, wash them!'" Zapata added, laughing.