There are so many Good News Stories in Iraq, that I have a hard time chosing…
1st Cavalry News
Angels in Uniform
Soldiers laying groundwork for child to receive life-changing surgery
By Spc. Courtney Marulli
2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq—After being critically injured by stray gunfire a year ago, a 3-year-old Iraqi boy will travel to the United States with his mother for surgery that may allow him to walk again.
Maj. Phil L. McIntire, commander for Company A, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, said the child, named Abdullah, sustained a life-threatening injury when he was 2 years old. The shot shattered Abdullah’s left femur and left him unable to walk.
“I know we can’t save all the kids in Iraq, but we can help some,” McIntire said. McIntire, of Saline, Mich., said Abdullah got around by pulling himself along and using his right leg to hop on.
Abdullah and his mother will be flown to the U.S. for surgery at the University of Michigan. A bar will be put in his leg to act as a new femur, McIntire said. The bar will fuse to the bone, and as long as the child’s growth plates were not damaged, the leg should grow normally.
“The procedure is done a lot,” McIntire said.
The surgery will be performed by one of the world’s leading pediatric orthopedic surgeons according to McIntire.
Administrators at the University of Michigan hospital are donating their facilities for the surgery and recuperation. The anesthesiologist is also donating services and the hospital will provide 10 hours of rehabilitation.
A friend of McIntire’s is a professor at the university’s medical school and is also a physician who will act as Abdullah’s primary care provider during his recovery.
The child came to McIntire’s attention while his civil affairs teams were on a routine patrol. His mother brought him out to the Soldiers to ask if they could do anything for her son’s leg. The child’s leg had been operated on initially by Iraqi doctors, but they said he would never walk again.
“I contacted friends back in the states to see if anything could be done,” McIntire said.
Getting finances together to send patients to the United States has proved to be one of the biggest challenges, McIntire said. It’s easier to send them to Germany or Jordan.
However, the generosity and caring heart of a wounded officer is the reason Abdullah and children like him will be able to get the proper treatment they need. A captain under the leadership of McIntire was shot in the spine by a sniper and is currently undergoing rehabilitation procedures to learn to walk again at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. The captain, a reservist from New York, is a successful businessman who put his money into a children’s fund he created while recovering from his injury.
“That’s how we’re able to fly the mom and son to the states,” McIntire said.
Other issues include securing passports and visas from Iraq for the people seeking treatment. The National Iraqi Assistance Center helped get the passports, but the visas are still in the works.
Letters from contacts in the United States are also needed and then the tickets can be purchased. McIntire said Abdullah’s father was really excited that his son has a chance to lead a normal life. “They had lost all hope that the boy would walk again,” McIntire said.
McIntire credited Trinity Health, a Catholic health care organization from Farmington Hills, Mich., with helping make the surgery possible. He said Trinity Health has charity funds to help children get treatment they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. “People want to really show Iraqis that the U.S. wants them to become a functional nation,” he said.
Non-government organizations also want to help but tend to stay out of many areas due to the danger. However, Soldiers can bridge the gap to those organizations, McIntire said.
“If there’s no one controlling the process of visas, passports and information, it just kind of all falls apart,” McIntire said. “I fell under the role of manager to handle the cases.”
The most important aspect of helping children like Abdullah, is the opportunity and possibility of making a difference. “We can’t change everyone’s life, McIntire said. “But we try to do what we can.”
Maj. Phil L. McIntire, commander for Company A, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, has been helping kids who need special medical care throughout Baghdad. (Courtesy photo from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Inf. Div.)