Providing Heart Surgeries in Iraq Again… For This Child, Not A Moment Too Soon

She was blue. Well, she was beyond blue actually—purple. We started the day with a little purple baby thrust into the arms of our medical team.

“She doesn’t look very well.” That might be the understatement of the year.

Umalbanen was admitted immediately, and examined to see just what was going on. The verdict? She was hours from death.

Friends, we’re back in Basra, southern Iraq—giving heart surgeries to children who can’t get the care they need to survive. In part because of the disruption caused by ISIS, it’s been more than a year since we’ve been able to do this kind of work inside Iraq. And for Umalbanen, it was not a moment too soon.

Her parents brought her to the hospital just as our team arrived. As they handed her to us, they said quite simply, “She doesn’t look very well.”

For six months—Umalbanen’s whole life, in fact—she has struggled to live. She was born with a heart which routed blood the wrong way. This meant that her body wasn’t getting oxygen.

Her very cells were suffocating.

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When the surgeon opened her chest on the operating table, her little heart was black. And that little black heart was an immediate and stark reminder of why this pediatric heart surgery program—our first means to unmake violence in Iraq—is so important. Mere hours from death, this baby arrived into the arms of the team that could save her life.

In fact, did save her life.

Umalbanen is recovering in the ICU. She has a ways to go, but she is now the color she was alway meant to be! She lets her nurse know that she prefers to lay on one side over the other, and complains when they stop patting her belly. Suddenly, she is a small person, with preferences. And we couldn’t be more thrilled!

Umalbanen’s name means “mother of boys.” Whatever her future holds, now she has one—thanks to you.

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