Iraqi Girl’s Future Getting Brighter  

Soldiers of the 155th Brigade Combat Team carry Hadiya Hussein to their vehicle in order to get her to Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, for a medical examination prior to her leaving for the United States for life saving heart surgery.




With a tear in her eye and a smile on her face, Hadiya Hussein and her father began their journey to the United States. In a war where death and destruction are often the main themes seen on the home front, this is a story about life.

Specifically, it is a story about the life of a six-year-old Iraqi girl that had little hope of a real future. She was born with a hole between the bottom two chambers of her heart that prevents oxygenated blood from getting throughout her small, frail body. This limits her in normal daily children’s activities. In other words, the other children are able to run, romp and play, while Hadiya has to stand back and merely watch.

Soldiers with the 155th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) learned about her condition while conducting a routine inspection of the water treatment plant in the village of Tunis, Iraq. The 155th BCT is an Army National Guard unit comprised of soldiers from Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Vermont, and various other states.

"Much effort is being put into Iraq’s medical infrastructure." says 1st Lt. Brent Lindley, medical planner for the 155th BCT, from Hattiesburg, Miss. "Even though an Iraqi Heart Surgeon in Baghdad could perform the surgery, the lack of after care put Hadiya’s chance of survival at about 40 percent if she had it performed in Iraq." If the surgery is performed in the United States by American doctors, he said, her chances of survival, and even living a full life, are greatly increased. Lindley added that without the surgery, there is no way she will be able to survive.

Dr. John L. Meyers, professor of surgery and pediatrics, and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Penn., has reviewed Hadiya’s medical files and has agreed to perform the life saving operation at no cost to the family. In a letter sent to the American Consulate in Iraq Meyers states, "We have accepted Hadiya Hussein for treatment at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Children’s Hospital to correct the abnormality of the ‘Ventricular Septal Defect’. This treatment is not available in Iraq, and will not require the use of [United States] taxpayer revenues."

It is expected that Hadiya will need approximately seven to ten days of inpatient treatment. She should be in the United States approximately three months, after which she will return to Iraq. The estimated cost of the surgery and after care is approximately $20,000, which will be paid for through the hospital’s Children’s International Healthcare Fund. A family that wishes to remain anonymous is paying to fly the little girl and her father to the United States and back to Baghdad.

Hadiya Hussein is examined at the battalion aid station located at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, before she leaves for the United States to receive life saving heart saving surgery.

Flying an Iraqi child and a parent to the United States involves the U.S. Department of State issuing a non-immigrant visa. This visa cannot be issued at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad but is issued in another country. The 155th BCT Chaplain, Lt. Col. Tommy W. Fuller, of Florence, Miss., had been working with Hadiya’s father to obtain this visa through the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. "They are the future of Iraq and no greater way can we as American Soldiers and the American people show this than by helping a family like Hadiya’s." he said.

"These are very poor yet honorable people who work hard to earn a living just to feed their children. By no means do they have, or could they afford, this type of procedure." Major Bradley Lauver, of Pittsburg, Penn., with the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion said. "The father has pleaded with us to try and save Hadiya’s life. I have lost a child myself, and I know the pain and suffering that one endures, especially as a family trying to cope with the loss of a child." He continued by adding, "I cannot sit back and let this course of action happen without trying everything possible within my means to try to save her life."

While Hadiya and her father are in the United States, private families have volunteered to use their homes and personal resources to provide daily care needs, which include providing food, lodging, and transportation. This is done for the simple reason that the families, who graciously open their doors, want to help.

In the early morning hours of October 8, 2005, a patrol left Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kalsu, en route to Tunis, Iraq. Hadiya and her father, Mohammed, were picked up and brought back to FOB Kalsu. Two Army Blackhawk helicopters flew Hadiya and her father to Baghdad, escorted by Lauver.

An hour later, Lt. Col. Fuller, 1st Lt. Lindley and 2nd Lt. Mark Batiste, a platoon leader in Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114 Field Artillery, left FOB Kalsu en route to Baghdad on "Highway 1" with Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery providing combat patrol security.

Sunday morning, the group "saddled up" and escorted Hadiya and her father to Baghdad International Airport. Hadiya and her father flew from Baghdad, Iraq, to Amman, Jordan. At the U.S. Embassy in Jordan, Hadiya and her father will completed their medical visas to travel to the United States for Hadia’s heart surgery.

The cardiothoracic surgery team at Penn State in Hershey, Penn., is awaiting Hadiya’s arrival. Though more tests will be needed prior to surgery, many of the preoperative tests were done at the battalion aid station by Lt. Col. Mike Brown, an Army thoracic surgeon assigned to FOB Kalsu.

Lauver’s wife will meet Hadiya and Mohammed at an airport in the United States and will assist them throughout their time in America. Recovery is expected to take about two months. Hadiya and her father will return to Iraq at this time.

"If we can make an impact on these children, we help the future of Iraq." Lauver said.


By Sergeant 1st Class Kevin W. Reeves, 155th Brigade Combat Team, public affairs NCO




Hadiya Hussein and her father, Mohammed, sit together in their home as Soldiers with the 155th Brigade Combat Team discuss getting them to the United States for her life saving heart surgery.
Little Hadiya Hussein (c) is surrounded by the ones she loves at the Baghdad International Airport the morning she left for the United States to receive the heart surgery that will inevitably save her life. Also pictured are her father Mohammed (l) Major Bradley Lauver (rear), and Lt. Col. Tommy Fuller (r).