Soldiers Help Iraqi Boy Get Surgery
August 8, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 8, 2007) - Soldiers have answered the prayers of an Iraqi boy and his parents in Hollandia.
Sitting in the local health clinic with his father on a May morning, Ahaip Najim had no idea that hope would arrive. But in came members of the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion and 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, to assess the town's needs.
"They discovered him in the health clinic there and just gathered around him," said Capt. Jimmy Hathaway, commander, Headquarters Troop, 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt. "They decided right there that they were going to do everything in their power to help him."
At birth, Ahaip had an obstructed bowel that required emergency surgery. The surgery left the child's intestines outside his body, and the doctor planned to reintroduce the intestines back into Ahaip's body in six to eight years. However, according to a 97th Civil Affairs medic from Fort Bragg, N.C., that option would leave the child at risk of infection or rupture.
Cavalry and civil affairs Soldiers began calling contacts throughout the Army to find help for the child.
"Finally, we were put in contact with the hospital in An Najaf, Iraq," Capt. Hathaway said. "They agreed to help us."
The next challenge was getting Ahaip and his father to al Sadr Hospital, but the pieces fell into place after the Soldiers explained the situation to Multinational Force - Iraq Commander Gen. David H. Petraeus.
"He asked if there was anything we needed. He said this is exactly the type of thing we needed to be doing and volunteered his own aircraft," Capt. Hathaway said. "The aircraft was provided by Multinational Division - Center, but Gen. Petraeus' offer really said a lot about how important this mission had become to everyone."
The 3rd Heavy Combat Brigade Team used a convoy to pick up Ahaip and his father and brought them to FOB Hammer. From Hammer, the pair traveled to al Sadr Hospital by helicopter.
"We had two Blackhawks, two Apaches and a MEDEVAC waiting for us when we pulled up," Capt. Hathaway said. "The support we received was phenomenal."
The flight was set, but the young patient wasn't so sure.
"He was scared at first," Capt. Hathaway said. "We had to stop and refuel, and he seemed to relax after that. He just needed some time to get used to it. He seemed to be having a good time near the end."
Ahaip was expected to be at al Sadr Hospital for 10 to 14 days. Before the surgery, doctors there wanted to run diagnostic tests. The first of two surgeries was initially planned for June 4, but Ahaip's anemic condition pushed it back to June 17.
"The first surgery went well," Capt. Hathaway said. "The child is recovering. He is currently using a colostomy bag, but the second planned surgery will hopefully eliminate the need for that and let him lead a normal life."
Ahaip's father has been able to remain with him throughout his hospital stay.
"The hospital has been very supportive," Capt. Hathaway said. "They have given him a place to stay, given him meals and even washed his clothes. They have really done a great job helping this family out."
The coalition's relationship with the town of Hollandia has improved with Soldiers' help to the boy and his family, Capt Hathaway added.
"They are very pro-coalition," he said. "They all saw the coverage of this on Iraqi television and saw that we were trying to help. One man told me, 'You did what you said you were going to do. Thank you.' That means a lot. We go into the town now and people come out to see us. They laugh and joke with us. We feel very welcome there."