March 19, 2008 —
FOB KALSU, Iraq (March 20, 2008) – A young girl and her family are anxiously awaiting a decision from an organization in Los Angeles to determine the fate of her eyesight.
Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, escorted 5-year-old Noor to the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, March 14, to have her eyes evaluated by an optometrist.
The medical evaluation done in Iraq will give doctors almost 8,000 miles away the information they need to determine whether they’ll perform the surgery.
Initial diagnosis by Lt. Col. Hee-Choon Lee, battalion surgeon for the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, found that Noor was blind due to a birth defect which resulted in poorly-developed corneas in both her eyes. Her 32-year-old uncle Mustafa also suffers from the same defect.
The information from Noor’s medical appointment will be evaluated by doctors from the Eye Defects Research Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Los Angeles. The foundation will make a decision on whether or not she is a viable candidate for surgery and where the surgery would take place.
Lee said if representatives from the foundation can find other patients to operate on in Iraq then a trip could be organized. If not, then coalition forces would work to have the young child and her family taken to Los Angeles to have the surgery done.
While her uncle is also being evaluated as a candidate for surgery, his case requires more caution. Lee said because he is an adult, his eyes might not heal as easily as those of his young niece.
"I think Noor’s left eye has a lot of hope. Her right eye may not be a good candidate because it is too small,” said Lee a native of Larton, Va., “All the (ultrasound) pictures were sent up and we’re waiting.”
In a study of corneal transplants success in pediatric patients done by Emory University, the success rate in the best of circumstances was only 50 percent.
“We are all working towards getting this young girl the gift of sight," Lee said.