By Army Sgt. 1st Class Stacy Niles
Special to American Forces Press Service
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. Noor Majeed overcame her initial prognosis, but without proper care, she still could die.
But surgeons at Children's Hospital in Boston have agreed to donate their services to help her, and a donor in Cambridge, Mass., donated $100,000 for her medical care. Noor's surgery is scheduled for June 30.
Noor was born with "bladder exstrophy," a rare congenital disease in which the bladder protrudes outside the abdominal wall. It occurs once in every 30,000 to 50,000 births, most often in boys. Separation of the pelvic bones also accompanies the condition, which often is associated with other birth defects. Surgery to repair bladder exstrophy usually is 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 also needs orthopedic surgery on her pelvis and hips, as well as reconstructive and corrective procedures, said Capt. Michael Mullaly, an operating room nurse with 912th Forward Surgical Team. Mullaly was attached to 948th FST as an operating room nurse when Noor began treatment in the medical facility here.
Doctors from 948th Forward Surgical Team first saw Noor in February. Without treatment, her ailments could be catastrophic, they said. Both conditions are rare in the United States, and the causes for both are unknown, said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Paul Brisson, general and pediatric surgeon with 948th FST.
"When Noor was born ... and when I saw her condition, ... I wished to die," Zainab Najy, Noor's mother, said. "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 went by, the child's mother continued, Noor kept fighting and stayed alive. "I was hurt all the time as I watched other children walking and playing, ... but Noor can't even sit or walk. My life became filled with depression, sadness and pain," she said.
"I was so sad and depressed," she continued, "but now, I am happy because I feel that Noor will live, and all this is made possible by the American people ... and the American troops and the medical staff who helped us save Noor's life."
Neseer M. Jemeel, Noor's father, said he was desperate over his daughter's suffering and the fact that he couldn't do anything about it. "The Iraqi doctors could not help her," he said. "That's why we came [to U.S. Army doctors]."
Though he had once lost hope, the child's father said, he's happy now. "I feel safe, because [the Americans] are caring," he said. "They care about children [and] 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 Worcester, Mass., plans to meet them when they land.
"It can be overwhelming," Mullaly said 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," he said. "I'm attached to this baby."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Stacy Niles serves with the 214th Fires Brigade Public Affairs Office.)