U.S. Special Forces offer Iraqi boy hope for normal life

Ravage

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News Archive/2009/January/090105-02.html

SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq (Courtesy of CJSOTF-AP Public Affairs, Jan. 5, 2009) – A 6-year-old boy living in the Jazeera Desert, west of Samarra, will now have a chance to live a normal, long life with the help of United States Special Forces and Iraqi doctors.

Special Forces first met the boy, Muhammed, as a result of a meeting with the tribal sheik. Muhammed had a deformity called encephalocele, a condition which forms a hernial protrusion of brain substance through a congenital opening in the skull, and the USSF team advised the sheik that they would help the child.

“When we met him, Muhammed was wearing a special hat that the family made to cover the deformity in his head,” said an SF surgeon. “Essentially, brain and tissue are being forced out of the hole and lay exposed outside the protection of the child’s skull. Other than the deformity he’s an average 6-year-old boy.”

Nearly the size of an orange, an SF medic knew that this brain matter protruding from Muhammed’s skull could become a life-threatening issue. The USSF medic assessed this not only from the years of training he received in the military, but also through the shared professional opinion of his physician father, who specializes in pediatric neurosurgery in the U.S.

“There is a high likelihood that, if left untreated, his condition would continue to worsen, leading to the boy’s death,” said the SF medic.

The SF team coordinated to get imagery of Muhammed’s head and further consultations with an Iraqi medical team.

“A lot of people had parts to play to make the surgery happen for Muhammed,” the SF medic said. “The team had to pick the boy up and escort him around for consultations and imaging. We also had to coordinate air support and our surgeon worked a lot of the medical coordination.”

The SF medic’s father, a pediatric neurosurgeon based in the states, also helped with the consultation process by evaluating the medical data and reviewing MRI and CT scan images to offer a diagnosis of the boy’s condition.

Once the diagnosis was made, the SF team contacted the medical staff in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, with whom they a great working relationship, to locate a surgeon willing to do the procedure. After a review of the case, the doctor agreed to perform the surgery, repair the skull and remove the protruding brain tissue.

“The medical facility hasn’t asked for anything from the family; they just wanted to help the boy,” the SF surgeon said.

The SF team transported the boy, a family member, the SF surgeon and the SF medic to the hospital in Sulaymaniyah on a helicopter.

“We consider it an honor and a great opportunity for him to have this surgery,” a family member said. “Before Coalition forces stopped by our house, I never thought something like this would happen.”

During the surgery, doctors repaired the skull by removing the protruding brain material that has prevented the skull from completely closing. The skull should close on its own as the boy continues to grow. Two days after the surgery, Muhammed was out kicking a soccer ball around.

“Muhammed should recover fairly quickly. Once his hair grows back, you would never know that he had had surgery,” the SF surgeon said. “He has the potential to live a normal, healthy life.”

For the SF medic, it was nice to see the hard work and long hours the team put into making the surgery possible for the boy pay off.

“When we met Muhammed and evaluated his condition, I thought we could help him, and I gave the tribal sheik my word we would try,” the SF medic said. “I think it builds a level of trust within a community when you are able to follow through with promises.”

Everyone delivered on their promises to this young boy and his family, working together, and earning the trust and confidence of the tribe and community.

jrpqae.jpg

A doctor prepares 6-year-old Muhammed for surgery at a medical facility in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. The boy was born with a congenital deformity to his skull, but will now have a chance to live a normal, long life with the help of United States Special Forces and Iraqi doctors. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. David Russell)

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Six-year-old Muhammed recovers after surgery at a medical facility in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. The surgery to remove herniated brain tissue was a success. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. David Russell)
 

Gypsy

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I love reading stories like this, well done to all! I hope this young boy lives a full life in good health.

He sure has a "fancy" pair of sunglasses in that first picture. :D
 

Rabid Badger

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This is why we will win.

Exactly.

Hearts and minds and just plain common decency.

Kudos to all in the process who made this possible!

LL

Exactly. Thanks out to all for the 'win'.

I love reading stories like this, well done to all! I hope this young boy lives a full life in good health.

He sure has a "fancy" pair of sunglasses in that first picture. :D

Me, too.

Exactly. Win-win. ;)
 
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