Rochester, N.Y. - Thilan Wijesekera and Michael Sepulveda are like brothers.
They're not related but the two share a special bond.
They were paired together through a University of Rochester Medical Center program called "Reaching Out To Kids" or ROK.
It’s a program where medical students spend time with chronically ill children from the Golisano Children’s Hospital.
“He helps me to not think about it because sometimes it's frustrating,” Sepulveda said.
That's how Sepulveda describes his illness.
He was diagnosed with Hirschsprung disease at the age of seven – a complication since his birth.
The disease doesn’t allow his intestines to work the way they should. As a result, Sepulveda has to wear a colostomy bag.
“I know a lot of doctors, but he's the coolest one,” Sepulveda said of his buddy Wijesekera.
Wijesekera is a fourth year medical student.
He spends countless hours in the classroom.
Wijesekera says he looks at this time with Sepulveda not only as community service but a chance to see another side of the patient.
“Sometimes as a physician or a student you can get caught up with the different conditions a patient has but you don't appreciate what kind of person they are,” Wijesekera said.
Wijesekera says that's rewarding.
“I've seen him grow, mature, gain confidence in himself in his interest and what he wants to be,” Wijesekera said. “It's really exciting and to think that I had some small part, and this program could have been a piece of that, it really means a lot to me.”
That’s a special bond that should last long after any hospital stay.
There are about 20 medical students paired with young patients in the ROK program.
Program coordinators say they're always looking for other organizations to help them share opportunities.
To find out more about the program or to help, contact the Student Enrichment Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine at 585-275-4172