February 15, 2008

Iraqi girl’s surgery touches hearts

Featured Image

Maha Mohammed Al Sumaidaie kisses her 2-year-old daughter, Amenah Al-Bayati, in the first hour after her open-heart surgery at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Neil Brake)

Iraqi girl’s surgery touches hearts

Karla Christian, M.D., (right), works to re-route the veins in Amenah’s heart. (photo by Neil Brake)

Karla Christian, M.D., (right), works to re-route the veins in Amenah’s heart. (photo by Neil Brake)

Pink fingers, toes and lips.

Those were the things 2-year-old Amenah Al-Bayati's mother noticed when she saw her daughter for the first time after open-heart surgery to repair a serious birth defect.

A surgical team at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt performed open-heart surgery on the toddler from Iraq on Monday, Feb. 11.

The three-hour procedure involved redirecting blood from Amenah's heart to her lungs in order to supply the toddler with better oxygen to the rest of her body.

“The operation went well. We redirected the veins of her heart in a procedure called a bi-directional Glenn Shunt,” said Karla Christian, M.D., associate professor of Cardiac Surgery.

“Her heart already looks much happier. It is pumping very well, and her oxygenation percentages to her fingers and toes went from 60 percent and 70 percent before surgery to more than 90 percent after.”

“I cannot describe how I am feeling,” said Amenah's mother, Maha Mohammed Al-Sumaidaie, speaking through an interpreter. “I didn't even imagine this could happen, thank goodness for everything, and I thank God for all those who have helped.”

The surgery began at 7 a.m., and by 11 a.m. the surgical team was able to report to Amenah's mother that surgery was complete and had gone well.

When Christian emerged from the operating room, Mohammed Al-Sumaidaie gave her a big hug and thanked her many times.

After surgery, Amenah was taken to the Pediatric Critical Care Unit and was quickly weaned from the ventilator.

By Wednesday morning she was back to blowing kisses and waving at the nurses and staff who dropped by to check up on her.

Christian says if she continues to do this well, Amenah might be able to leave the hospital this weekend to go to the Franklin home of Pastor Steve Berger and his family, where she and her mother have been staying.

Amenah Al-Bayati was discovered in Haditha, Iraq by U.S. soldiers who noticed how blue she looked.

When her family told soldiers they feared she would not live much longer, the soldiers and friends arranged to fly her to Nashville for surgery. Children's Hospital doctors had to wait for Amenah to recover from a cold, and other infections, before operating this week.

To see more about Amenah Al-Bayati and her journey to the U.S. for life-saving surgery, go to www.vanderbiltchil-drens.com.