Surgery a success

A 12-year-old Iraqi girl brought to the United States by a Southfield-based relief agency has undergone successful open-heart surgery and is expected to return home within three weeks.

Zahraa Hamada’s surgery was performed Oct. 18 at no cost to her family by doctors at Indiana University’s Riley Hospital for Children. The seven-hour operation went better than expected, said Jad Jadallah, Project Life coordinator for the nonprofit Life for Relief and Development. Project Life brings children to the United States for surgeries they can’t obtain in their own countries. The Gulf War and subsequent U.S. and British bombings have devastated the Iraqi health care system. Meanwhile, U.S.-backed United Nations sanctions on Iraqi oil sales are being blamed for food and medicine shortages that, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, have led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children since 1990.

Hamada, who remained in intensive care last week, will likely stay with a Detroit-area Iraqi family in the time between her release from the hospital and her flight home, Jadallah said.

"They say she’s getting better every day," he said.

Vicki Robb, a registered nurse who heads the relief agency’s medical department, says getting medicine past the United Nations into Iraq is a lengthy, tedious process. Because Hamada will require medication over the next year, Jadallah says, the relief agency will probably have to send it to her via Jordan.

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