Friday’s Good News

Good News Friday

Every Friday, beginning today, I will be posting a “Good News” story. One that for some reason was just to positive for the MSM to cover. 

Feel free to share the news I find as I feel it is important to let the World see both sides of the story.

If you find a good story that you would like to share let me know so we can get it out to many!

Todays Good News Story was sent to me by Sue. (Many may know her as MyBrood)


The Girl, the Grunt, the Miracle

Marine Corps News | January 05, 2007

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq — “She is our future… that’s why we support the Iraqi Police, so they can provide a secure future for (Iraqi children),” said Lt. Col. Bob McCarthy, a 41-year-old Police Transition Team Leader from East Bridgewater, Mass., in response to an Iraqi tribal leader’s gratitude toward U.S. forces for their efforts to save an Iraqi youth named Riyam Shihan.

The Girl

In the afternoon of October 13th, nine-(and-a-half)-year-old Riyam was in her aunt’s house playing with her cousin. A few hours later, many doubted she would live to play again.

The Grunt

Marine Corporal Justin T. Abraham spotted him first: an Iraqi man stumbling toward his position, his arms clutching a bundle of blankets.

“At first I thought he was carrying a bomb,” said Abraham, a 23-year-old native of Oxford, Mich. and a Marine with PTT 6, Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division. Then Abraham saw the girl and all of the blood, and he knew his first instinct was wrong. He also knew he needed to find a doctor.

The Corpsman

Navy ‘Doc’ Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Graham never expected to get out of the humvee during the coalition’s routine check of the IP outposts. Then Graham heard someone calling his name. It sounded urgent.

“Everything happened so fast… I knew I didn’t have time to freeze up,” said Graham, 40 from Washington, D.C.  Prior to joining the military, Graham had a job in swimming pool operation and maintenance. Then he decided his life needed a change of pace. Thousands of miles displaced and a few years older, he was in the middle of a war-zone trying to stop blood from flowing out of a gash in a little Iraqi girl’s head. Graham quickly realized his best efforts wouldn’t save the girl’s life.

“When you’re treating children that age, you don’t have everything you need because you’re not used to treating patients that small,” said Graham.

“The best thing to do was get her to a treatment facility,” said Graham. So he gave his recommendation to the man in charge.

The Commander, Prayer Time, and the “Head Call”

McCarthy wanted to get his troops out of there. The Police Transition Team had just completed their mission, advising the personnel at the last of three Iraqi police stations. Their timing was perfect. A Muslim ‘call to prayer’ was approaching, and a mosque stood adjacent to the police station.

“It was Friday (Muslim Sabbath), Ramadan, and a crowd was gathering,” said McCarthy, “I did not want to upset the local citizenry with Marine presence outside the mosque on their day of prayer.”

“It was time for the (team) to roll.”

The troops had packed up, and McCarthy was about to give the order when a driver of one humvee requested to take a bathroom break or a ‘head call.’ The team delayed, the crowd of Iraqis grew, and tension began to mount.

“The hairs on my neck had been raised for about fifteen minutes,” described McCarthy.

Word from Graham reached McCarthy, and he put his urgency on pause to take a look at the girl. She was in the casualty evacuation humvee moments later.

“I gave the order,” said McCarthy, “you can’t ignore a traumatic injury that falls into your path; especially to a child.” Elements of the Police Transition Team had a new mission, and renewed urgency.

“We dropped everything,” said Abraham, “to save her life.”

The Doctors

It was a fairly quiet day until the call came from Habbaniyah, said Cmdr. Theodore D. Edson, a general surgeon with Taqaddum Surgical, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). An entire team of surgeons assembled to receive and treat the girl, including Edson, 39 from Lexington, Mass. and Lt. Cmdr. Pamela C. Harvey, 39 from Muscatine, Iowa.

When the girl arrived with her father, she was delirious and disoriented, said Edson.

“She was hostile in a way that didn’t make sense,” said Harvey. She said the translator reported the girl was speaking gibberish.

“These are all signs of brain injury,” said Edson.

The surgeons struggled to treat the girl, to stabilize her, but it soon became clear that she needed a higher level of care. A call went out for a helicopter to medically evacuate the girl to a better equipped hospital.

“As our evaluation continued, she deteriorated right in front of us, and our worst fears came true,” said Harvey. Surgeons and corpsmen “launched into action,” said Harvey. They quickly medicated the girl intravenously and inserted a breathing tube. But because of the injury to her brain, she lost her ability to clot blood.

If the girl did not get blood soon, she would die.

A ‘walk-in’ blood bank message was sent out on Camp Taqaddum. The camp responded immediately with almost two dozen donors offering aid. The girl got her blood. But stormy weather blocked flights from leaving Camp Taqaddum. With no specialized neurosurgeons in TQ Surgical, it appeared hope was lost.

“Back in the states, with an injury like this, the patient would be operated on within forty-five minutes,” said Edson. Two hours passed. Then three. Then four. Outside the storm raged, and inside anxiety peaked. The staff was beginning to consider opening her up here despite lack of resources and experience.

“An injury like this, left unabated, will lead to loss of speech or motor function… and then eventually death,” said Edson.

One of the doctors brought the girl’s father a Quran. Beside her bed he sat praying. Next to him, the doctors and corpsmen of TQ Surgical were praying as well.

God answered their prayers the only way he could: he sent in…

The Marines

Through the storm they flew the C-130, landing in TQ like an angel with fixed-wings during Riyam’s greatest time of need. A few hours earlier, the crew had been planning to go on a routine refueling mission. Bad weather was the only obstacle holding them back.

At some points “you could barely see your hand in front of your face,” said 31-year-old Marine Capt. Justin J. Hall, a pilot for air refueling transport squadron 352, Marine Air Group 16, 3rd Marine Air Wing (Forward).

Then they received a call from Taqaddum to do a casualty evacuation. Since helicopters usually do most “casevacs,” the crew knew this had to be important.

“I knew that it was a head injury… (on a) nine-year-old Iraqi girl,” said Hall, “that kind of brought it home for me.” Hall has two children of his own.

The old mission was scrubbed, and feelings of urgency filled the crew. The determined Marines sat on the runway with the engines running, waiting for visibility to clear up.

“If there was any way we could get (the mission) done, we were going to get it done,” said Hall.

They got it done, eventually delivering an unconscious Riyam to neurosurgeons in time for surgery.

“I just hoped she was all right,” said Hall.

“Even when the Marines took off, we weren’t sure if she would make it,” said Cmdr. Tracy R. Bilski, a trauma surgeon with TQ Surgical.

Their Tears

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Bilski, from Bellmawr, N.J. Upon seeing the girl’s outcome, Bilski burst into tears. Doctors and corpsmen at TQ Surgical had lost a six-year-old Iraqi girl a few weeks previous to Riyam, and they weren’t ready to lose another one, said Harvey.

“I definitely cried,” said Seaman Tommie L. Walker, Jr. a 23-year-old corpsman with TQ surgical from Sunflower, Miss.
Inside the small, stuffy Iraqi Police office, an emotionally overwhelmed grandfather and father shed their own tears. Despite the many other men crammed into the room, these two grief-stricken individuals made no effort to hide their feelings. Both father and grandfather repeated the same phrase over and over again in regards to what happened to Riyam.

“I don’t have the words to explain how I feel…”

Patient 1267, the Iraqi Policeman, and the Sheik

“…if the surgeons were here right now, we would kiss their hands,” they said, wiping tears from their eyes.

“I didn’t even cry,” said Riyam. Inside the office, the girl sat on a couch beside her father and across from her grandfather. All eyes were on her, and everyone in the room leaned forward when Riyam spoke her soft words. Riyam explained how her cousin had been trying to close a heavy, metal door in front of her aunt’s house when the door became unhinged and crashed down upon her body. Her skull was crushed.

Bruises on her brain caused swelling and internal bleeding, which increased the pressure in her skull, causing further damage to the brain. Surgeons were forced to remove a part of the bone to relieve the pressure. The injury was so bad that doctors and corpsmen doubted whether she would survive the operation, much less walk and talk again. So when Riyam, patient number 1267, walked back into TQ Surgical a month later and asked for strawberry bubble gum, the staff was amazed.

“The surgeons all ran in different directions to find her some strawberry bubble gum,” said her 36-year-old father, Younis Aved Shihan, a taxi-driver who became an Iraqi Policeman because he wanted to help prevent insurgents from taking over his town.

“The Iraqi people of Habbaniyah hear what the coalition forces have done to save my grand daughter, and they cry. They are very grateful and you have gained them to your side,” said Riyam’s grandfather, 70-year-old Aved Shihan Ghathaib. After Riyam’s operation, coalition forces learned that Ghathaib was a sheik, or tribal leader, in the town of Habbaniyah.

“It’s because we were there, advising the Iraqi people, that we had the opportunity to save this girl,” said McCarthy.

Riyam’s uncle, 41-year-old Capt. Hameed Aftat Shihan, a chief security officer said this humanitarian effort has far reaching affects in the Iraqi community. Police Transition Teams in the area are now revered by the people. They meet with smiles, waves and friendly greetings almost every where they go. Some of the team members said that saving the girl has made more progress toward stability in the region a few weeks than is usually made in a few months.

“(The sheik) is in charge of six thousand people, and all of them know this story, and soon all of their friends will know this story,” said Hameed. Riyam’s grandfather has also informed many other sheiks, who will probably inform their people, he added. The effects of saving this one little girl have reached far beyond just those involved. The relationship between the Iraqi Police, the Police Transition Team, and the local population has changed for the better. The citizens of Habbaniyah have a new-found respect for the work of the Americans, who strive not only to improve the quality of the Iraqi Police, but also the lives of the Iraqi people.

“Saving this girl’s life,” said Hameed while in Habbaniyah PTT Headquarters, “was like saving all of Iraq.”

But Riyam’s fight for life is far from over. With a piece of her skull incubating inside her stomach, Riyam currently lives with only soft tissue to protect that part of her brain. Riyam is forced to wear a helmet now when she plays with her friends.

Another problem is that Riyam is still growing. Without her skull intact during her growth, she could face problems associated with irregular brain growth, such as a decrease in motor function capability and speech.  Within the next six months, she will need a follow up operation to replace the missing piece of her skull. It is a delicate operation that, due to the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure, will be almost impossible to provide in her home nation.

The efforts of coalition forces have bought her more time, but without this operation, Riyam’s future still remains stormy.


25 Responses to Friday’s Good News

  1. Vince Vitale says:

    What’s disgraceful is that stories like this are not all over the networks and on the front page of the NY Times!!! These actions are typical of American troops, not the negative acts of the very few that the media love to put front and center.

    I will, of course, pass it on to everyone on my mailing list, but that is preaching to the choir – the media’s behavior in this war is nothing short of treason, they alone are responsible for the current “crisis of confidence” here at home and will eventually be responsible for the dire consequences which will ensue from a cut & run outcome.

  2. cavmom says:

    Thanks Vince. I couldn’t agree more!

    For some strange reason I was caught up watching CNN last night. I will not make that mistake again. Their “stories” are twisted to the point that I feel nauseous listening. I pray that the majority of Americans do not use the MSM as their source for facts.

  3. […] who’s a member of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll, is starting a weekly post she calls Friday’s Good News. She’ll be posting a story every week out of the Middle East that, for some reason or other, […]

  4. brainhell says:

    > they alone are responsible for the current “crisis of confidence” here at home…

    This assertion is highly dubious. It let’s Saddam off the hook for his intent to resume WMD-related program activities that were a major part of the causus belli. To blame it ALL on our media absolves Saddam.

  5. cavmom says:

    I feel the media failed in showing what an evil man Saddam truly was. I saw no in-depth stories of the mass graves, the thousands of executions, or the abuse that was carried out under his command. One must completely overlook the MSM to find the facts.

    If the Media had stepped up and reported accurately, the confidence in the War on Terror would grow and our men and women in the Armed Forces would have the full support they deserve.

  6. Za says:

    I’m going to make the same comment here that I commented over at Right-Wing & Right Minded:

    Yes, it’s wonderful that she survived, and I dearly hope she manages to get that second operation. But the fact that her life was even on the line demonstrates what everyday Iraqis have to face. The news from Iraq is not good because this is not the norm. The article itself says that Iraq does not have the infrastructure for the follow up operation she requires.

    If they were to print all the feel-good stories, you would not be getting an accurate picture – the death rate over the first few years of the war was triple the estimated death rate under Saddam, and still is currently above that estimated rate.

    And if they replaced the stories of the “bad apples” for nicer stories, they would downplay the seriousness of those attrocities, and prevent the public awareness required to help prevent it from happening again. And it would prevent you from knowing the negative things that are getting Iraqis up in arms – to the point that many Iraqi politicians are asking for the US to leave.

    Adding to this comment, on the point you made about the “crisis of confidence”… the fact that Iraqis are asking the US to withdraw in itself says that you aren’t entirely correct. The American media can’t really have influenced Iraqi politicians.

    The American media also can’t have caused the fact that the locals would be upset by Marines near the mosque – that in itself demonstrates that the locals are taking issue with our forces (I’m not American – but I’m Australian, we have forces over there too); which is something that really needs addressing.

    There are a lot of insightful books being written about the issues we currently face on terrorism, Iraq, our current policies and so on by people who are actually involved at the top levels – Michael Scheuer, who headed the Alec Station from 1996-1999 (the CIA unit to capture Bin Laden, which was disbanded), for instance, gives good insights into the administrative problems with the “war on terror” (question: has it been abandoned now, what’s with the change to the ‘long war’? I’m curious for an American viewpoint).

    I’m not dismissing the need for there to be good news (and I’ll gladly keep reading every good news post you make), I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s treasonous or undermining – but rather important and necessary. Good news is never the norm in a warzone (and it’s significantly harder for them to find), and the bad news needs to be kept track of to keep people accountable.

  7. CavMom says:

    In order to get a better view of the war (which is indeed ugly) we need to hear the good along with the bad. We need to hear about the progress that is being made. Yes, war is harsh. Many people are wounded and killed, homes and lives destroyed forever.

    This is not in dispute. It is very important to show the blood, the carnage, and the devastation. It would be a scary situation to have civilization grow fond of War.

    For the media to center all their reporting around the missteps, and the riots of those who oppose … and completely failing to show the advancements that are taking place, is erroneous and misleading.

    Bias reporting has a negative effect. Show the deaths. Show the destruction… But, I am asking the media to step up and show the Iraqi people cheering on their new freedoms. Show the soldiers building schools. Show the schools that now, for the first time, have electricity. Show the Military building a working electrical grid. Show the Iraqi people using cells phones for the first time.

    There is so much good that is happening… The bad will continue. The insurgents, who are for the most part, coming in from neighboring countries, will continue to kill innocent men, women, and children. They will continue to attempt to kill police officers and leaders.

    But, show the world the thousands of Iraqi’s who line up to serve in the military or on the police force. Show that the people want a better life, a life they were not allowed to live under Saddam.

    All I see on the MSM is hatred towards Americans. Yes, the anger and hatred is out there….. But, so is the support and goodwill.

    Show the Humvees that hit the IED, and then tell of the people who tell Soldiers where the explosives can be found.

    There are many good things coming out of a really bad situation. I am not the first to say I hate war. And I pray that I am not the only one who prays we do everything possible to keep it from our door steps.

    God Bless the Men and Women who are fighting the War on Terror. May their children never have to face the same trials.

    We have all heard the quote by John Stuart Mill:

    “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. “

  8. Za says:

    Sorry about my delay in responding.

    I have to disagree with you that the media is actually doing that. The advancements in Iraq are small. For instance, you cite electricity and schools. Iraq already had those available to just about everyone; and I really hate to say it, but they were destroyed during the invasion. Access to food, water and electricity dropped dramatically after the first stage of the war. I’m even pretty certain they had cell phones prior to the war too. So that’s reconstruction, not an advancement per se.

    However, I’d like to point out – the media didn’t ignore the first major advancement in Iraq, in fact, the election got major coverage. From the things the voters themselves were saying, to the effects it was having socially. That was and is the only real advancement we’ve made since we went there, since everything else has been handicapped.

    I say that because, as I’ve said, reconstruction is not advancement (think about that from the Iraqi perspective before you disagree), the Iraqi police is riddled with criminals and murderers which in turn handicaps how effective it can be, and the government is split near centrally and can’t really do much.

    As to the bad continuing, the insurgents aren’t the issue. The Pentagon itself has said that the main problem is not problems from without, but rather problems from within – sectarian violence is the main problem in Iraq. And controlling that requires more than 150,000 troops (which is how many America had when they were having difficulty just controlling Baghdad), so true advancement is not going to be soon.

    And finally, this war will not keep fighting from your doorsteps. ALL the security branches of government have been clear on that; it’s making America more vulnerable and more a target, not less.

    All in all, the situation is not weighted in anyone’s favour. The bad outweighs the good in almost exactly the same way the media covers it. In fact, I can even cite instances where the bad outweighed the media coverage of it (like the interim government).

  9. cavmom says:

    Za I am going to disagree with you on a few points. First the schools;

    The progress I speak of has nothing to do with rebuilding bombed schools. The progress I am speaking of is the installation of electricity in schools that have never had it installed. Soldiers have sent me before and after pics of schools they have been working on.

    Many areas in Iraq are very primitive. The plumbing, sewer, and electricity were either non existing or non functioning. Death by electrocution was common because of poor wiring. Many communities have sewer in the streets because of back-up problems.

    This is due to extremely poor systems and grids.

    The military is assisting with the Iraqi people and bringing upgrades to many areas.

    As for the cell phones:

    … Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, ordinary citizens didn’t have wide access to mobile phones, outside of the Kurdish north, and only 833,000 of Iraqi’s 26 million people had telephone land lines, according to the U.S. State Department. Making an international call was difficult. Iraq’s phone network also was heavily damaged by the war and subsequent looting.

    Now that Saddam is gone, mobile phone use in Iraq has skyrocketed. cell phones became widely available in February 2004 with the establishment of Iraqna, which provides service in Baghdad and other parts of central Iraq. Today there are 1.6 million cell users in Iraq.

    You will have to provide me with substantial proof that insurgents are not the issue in Iraq. I have many sites and Soldiers who are willing to tell you other wise.

  10. Za says:

    Okay, I’ll concede your points on the advances.

    I’ll cite an article from The Age (one of our newspapers):
    A Pentagon report on Iraq said in December that the conflict had become more a struggle between Sunni and Shiite armed groups “fighting for religious, political and economic influence”, with the insurgency and foreign terrorist campaigns “a backdrop”.
    Iraqi death count far exceeds US as sectarian violence worsens

    You can google those specific quotes, they get used everywhere. Ironically, this wasn’t the article I was thinking of, but I can’t seem to find it. But yes, many sites and soldiers don’t quite compare with the Pentagon’s official reports.

  11. cavmom says:

    And I will acknowledge the fact there is great discontent between the Sunnis and Shiites. Haitha Street proves that daily. It is not pretty and I don’t see it getting better for some time.

    Until clerics step up and denounce the actions of radicals, insisting on an end, I will not believe they are capable of coexisting peacefully.

    A few Sheiks have stepped up… I pray that other leaders do the same.

    Unfortunately the man in this article was killed a month or two later.

    My point with the Good News Fridays is that the media needs to take some time and portray the good that our Soldiers are doing. I was asked a while back if my son has killed any children. The woman asked me how I could be proud of him. I cringe when I think of the disgust in her voice.

    So many have no idea what is going on. They hear the stories that are beat into the ground of Marines massacring villagers and Army prison guards torturing innocent Iraqis.

    They are not hearing stories of rescues and construction. I know war is bad. I know many innocent people are killed. However, I want the world to know that our men and women are not blood thirsty animals, who are looking for a kill.

  12. Za says:

    Sorry for the disappearance again.

    That’s perfectly understandable, but that perception isn’t the media’s fault – it’s the audiences. The fact that there are soldiers committing such acts doesn’t mean that all do. Anyone who takes such implications from what they see on the news probably doesn’t understand basic logic. 😉

  13. cavmom says:

    I agree… 🙂 How have you been?

  14. Za says:

    ….Interesting, I guess is the only way to put it. My step-mother has become rather permanently unwell. Puts a little stress in the house.

  15. cavmom says:

    I am so sorry to her that. 😦 Hugs to you and your family.

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