tampabay.com

An e-mail brings Iraqi girl to Miami for gift of hearing

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 5, 2006


MIAMI - Little Amina can't hear the bombs and bullets that rake through Baghdad. That may be a good thing.

But she also has never heard her mother and father tell her they love her. She's never heard dogs barking or birds chirping. The 3-year-old Iraqi girl has been deaf since birth.

Her family in Baghdad is too poor to pay for advanced surgeries that could restore her hearing, so until recently a soundless life seemed certain.

With the help of the U.S. Army in Iraq and the International Kids Fund, a Miami aid group, Amina was flown to the United States on Sunday for a procedure at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center that will bring sound to her life.

The International Kids Fund, which has brought more than 125 children from around the world to Miami for treatments, launched an effort Friday to raise $40,000 to pay for a cochlear implant to be surgically placed in Amina's ear. The device turns sound into electrical impulses that activate the hearing nerve, allowing the deaf to hear.

The long journey from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, to the United States began with a simple e-mail.

A friend of Amina's father in Iraq contacted a friend in the United States who then reached out to a contact in the Army who sent yet another e-mail in February to Col. Warner Anderson, an Army special forces doctor.

Anderson had been in Iraq in 2003 with the 352nd Civil Affairs Command and had made a lot of contacts. While back in the United States, he started making telephone calls and his wife, Ruth Macias de Anderson, a registered nurse, sent an e-mail to a doctor whom she once worked with in New Mexico.

Dr. Thomas Balkany is now at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine and is chairman of the otolaryngology department that specializes in cochlear implants.

It all came together when he agreed to do the surgery.

Anderson, who was wounded in battle in 2003, explained that while he was trained to kill, he's also a doctor and a human being.

"People are people," he said Friday in a telephone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C. "On my end, it was pretty simple. First we had to find out how to go about doing this. My approach was, we needed a diagnosis first so I arranged for her to go to an Army hospital in the green zone over there."

It was once Saddam Hussein's family hospital, he said.

Amina and her father, Mohammed, then began the long journey to Amman, Jordan, to obtain visas, and the pair were flown by International Kids Fund on a commercial plane to Miami where they will stay for a few months until the procedure is complete.

Mohammed, 30, a Baghdad painter, said through an interpreter, "I am extremely happy that this is happening now. I am so grateful ... that my daughter now will hear one day."

Israeli toddler recovering after multi-organ transplant

MIAMI - An Arab Israeli toddler was recovering Friday from a multi-organ transplant that she and her younger sister were both flown from Israel to receive, doctors said.

Nineteen-month-old Janna Awad received a new liver, stomach, pancreas, spleen, and small and large intestines in the seven-hour surgery Thursday at UM/Jackson.

She was hospitalized in stable condition in intensive care at Holtz Children's Hospital, said Dr. Andreas Tzakis. Doctors hope her 9-month-old sister, Halla, will grow a little before her transplant. Janna and Halla both suffer from the same rare and fatal intestinal disease, microvillous inclusion.