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Iraqi toddler arrives at Children’s Hospital with life-threatening heart defect

Jan. 26, 2008, 9:11 AM

A team of pediatric heart specialists at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children¹s Hospital at Vanderbilt continues to assess the condition of a 2-year-old Iraqi girl named Amenah (pronounced Ahh -min –Uh). The girl was flown to Nashville from Iraq on Wednesday in hopes of receiving lifesaving surgery.Children’s Hospital’s Thomas Doyle, M.D., and Karla Christian, M.D., saw Amenah on Thursday and determined that her heart problem is more complex than originally expected. The young girl has a large hole in her heart and a severe obstruction between her heart and lungs, giving her the classic “blue baby” look around her lips and extremities.Amenah’s heart is basically backward in her chest and her large arteries are oriented abnormally.”Untreated, this will be a fatal condition in her young childhood,” said Doyle, a pediatric cardiologist.Amenah, whose last name is not being released at the request of her family, is scheduled to undergo further testing next week after she recovers from infections acquired prior to the trip. Due to a fever and stress from her travels, she required admission to the Pediatric Critical Care Unit on Thursday but her condition is stable and improving. Her respiratory infection is also delaying plans for surgical intervention for at least a week, said Christian, a pediatric cardiac surgeon. “We want to give her the same care any child here in the United States would get, but we also have to keep in mind the access to medical care she will have when she returns home,” Christian said. “She will require a complex open heart surgery with significant risk.”She arrived in Nashville safely through heroic efforts of the U.S. military, as well as efforts of family and friends in Nashville. Marines with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, first met Amenah on a routine meet-and-greet patrol through the streets of Haditha City, Iraq, and noticed something wasn¹t right. Word got to Maj. Kevin Jarrard, and he met and quickly befriended Amenah and her family.Jarrard asked Cpt. John Nadeau, M.D., to take a look at the child. Nadeau is a top Vanderbilt hypertension specialist and battlefield surgeon serving his third tour of duty. He suspected she had a congenital heart defect that couldn’t be treated by current facilities in Iraq. Nadeau contacted the hospital and physicians, who offered to treat Amenah without charge.Battalion Communications Officer Maj. Jake Falcone facilitated clearance for Amenah and her mother to enter the U.S. through the State Department and Department of Homeland Security. The battalion raised $30,000 to fly them to the U.S. via Jordan with the assistance of a U.S. medical team and extensive cooperation from Blackwater Worldwide. The Iraqi government backed the Marines’ effort with their unconditional support, and friends and family of Jarrard in Nashville continue to help. Along with World Relief, Grace Chapel Church in Franklin is providing for the needs of Amenah and her mother away from the hospital.

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