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NEWS | June 18, 2008

Iraqi girl to get life-saving surgery

By SFC Stacy Niles U.S. Army, 214th Fires Brigade

Noor Majeed at the Forward Operating Delta medical facility where she received several life-saving procedures. She will undergo reconstructive surgery in Boston, June 30.
Noor Majeed at the Forward Operating Delta medical facility where she received several life-saving procedures. She will undergo reconstructive surgery in Boston, June 30.

FOB DELTA, Iraq (June 19, 2008) – When she was born, doctors didn’t expect her to live a week, but a 1-year-old Iraqi girl is defying the odds. She overcame the initial diagnosis, but without proper care, Noor Majeed could still die.

Fortunately, surgeons in Boston have agreed to donate their services to help her, and a donor in Cambridge, Mass., donated $100,000 for the medical care of this patient. Noor’s surgery is scheduled for June 30 at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Noor was born with bladder exstrophy, which is a rare congenital disease in which the bladder protrudes outside of the abdominal wall. It occurs once in every 30,000 - 50,000 births, most often in boys. Separation of the pelvic bones also accompanies the condition, which is often associated with other birth defects. Surgery to repair bladder exstrophy is usually performed within the first 48 hours after birth.

The care required to correct bladder exstrophy is unavailable in Iraq. In addition to surgery to repair the bladder, Noor will also require orthopedic surgery on her pelvis and hips as well as reconstruction and corrective procedures, said Capt. Michael Mullaly, an operating room nurse with the 912th Forward Surgical Team. Mullaly was attached to the 948th FST as an operating room nurse when Noor began treatment in the FOB Delta medical facility.

“When Noor was born…and when I saw her condition…I wished to die,” said Zainab Najy, Noor’s mother. I felt hopeless and helpless…and because of the lack of adequate care that can treat her and because of our financial situation, we could not afford to help her. I was expecting her to die at any moment; I even told my mother that I don’t want to get attached to her, because I thought she would die soon.”

“But as days go by, Noor resisted…and stayed alive. I was hurt all the time as I watch other children walking and playing…but Noor can’t even sit or walk. My life became filled with depression, sadness and pain,” said Najy.

“I was so sad and depressed, but now, I am happy because I feel that Noor will live and all this made possible by the American people…and the American troops and the medical staff who helped us save Noor’s life,” she added.

“My feeling was desperate, for a father who sees his daughter suffering…and we could not help her. The Iraqi doctors could not help her, that’s why we came (to Army doctors),” said Neseer M. Jemeel, Noor’s father.

“I was so happy when I heard my daughter will be treated…because I had lost hope completely…but I am so happy now. I feel safe because (the Americans) are caring. They care about children, mothers; they know life is valuable, and they are true human beings.”

When Noor and her mother arrive in Boston, they will be greeted by a friendly face – Mullaly, an operating room nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worchester, Mass., plans to meet them when they land.

“It can be overwhelming,” said Mullaly of traveling to a new country where you know no one and don’t speak the language. “I think a familiar face would make it easier.”

Mullaly has seen Noor on five occasions.

“I’m pretty vested in this case. I’m attached to this baby,” said Mullaly.

Doctors from the 948th Forward Surgical Team first saw Noor in February. Without treatment, Noor’s ailments could be catastrophic. Both conditions are rare in the U.S., and the causes for both are unknown, said Lt. Col. Paul Brisson, general and pediatric surgeon with the 948th FST.