Group Tries to Save Kid's Lives
Eight-year-old Bernadit Jalal has a hole in her heart. Six-year-old Yokhana Nano will die if doctors don't reconstruct his rib cage.
Both children left Metro Detroit on Thursday for Texas to complete a 16-month odyssey from the United Nations-protected zone in northern Iraq for lifesaving surgery not available in their economically devastated homeland.
"My daughter has an opening in her heart. If it stays open, it could cause heart failure," said Bernadit's mother, Khereya Jalal, 37. "There's no possibility to do it in Iraq."
The Assyrian Aid Society of America, formed during the 1991 gulf war to help Assyrians in Iraq, raised $200,000 and secured visas for the children.
The Jalals stayed in Warren with Jalal's sister, Schmoni Zaya, and Yokhana was at his aunt's house in Oak Park with his mother, Lydia.
Both are now at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. "Other kids need similar kinds of operations, but these are the first without surgery to repair her two kids we've been able to help," said Lincoln Malik, vice-president of the society. "This encourages us. It allows us to generate the energy to continue."
Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine are donating their services. The Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, Calif., and the Taylor Family Foundation in Lafayette, Calif., contributed travel and boarding costs for the children and their mothers.
"It is good that we're here," said Jalal, a pediatrician in Mangish, Iraqi, who speaks some English.
"The doctors are good and everything is available. Even in Baghdad where it's dangerous for us to go it's too difficult to get anesthesia for the operation."
The operations are scheduled late next week. If everything goes right, Yokhana will be hospitalized about a week. He needs his rib cage recon structe to allow his heart and lungs room to grow.
Bernadit could need several weeks to recover from open-heart surgery. Jalal is no stranger to tragedy. She has seen many friends lose homes to violence in the last decade. Eight years ago, her husband was killed m a car wreck while she was pregnant with Bernadit.
"The (aid society) is doing everything it can for Assyrians in the north of Iraq," Malik said. "We're helping educationally and medically.
We're rebuilding destroyed villages and providing cash stipends for the poor."
Metro Detroit's 100,000 Assyrians are more than one-quarter of the United States'Assyrian population.
On this occasion, we ask our Assyrian community and friends to help other children in need of life saving medical treatment in the U.S. There is no cause more worthy than saving the life of an innocent child. As part of our medical support effort, AAS has established a special "Save the Children" project for this very purpose. We need your help urgently. Please send your tax deductible contributions to the:
Assyrian Aid Society of America
AAS is a charitable, tax exempt corporation organized under Section 501 (C3) of the Federal code to help needy Assyrians in our ancestral homeland of Bet Nahrain (mostly present day Iraq).
41 SUTTER STREET, SUITE 1534. SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94104