Patient Update: Ten Years Later, Hussein Inspires Others
Hussein was visiting his grandfather’s gravesite in Iraq when he stepped on a landmine. The explosion cost him his eyesight and his left hand. Plus, more than 30 percent of his body was ravaged with second-and third-degree burns.
After 10 surgeries in Iraq over the course of two years, it was clear he needed more specialized care. The Arizona chapter of Healing the Children arranged for Hussein to travel to Phoenix, hopeful doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital could help.
And in 2005, a brave Hussein, just 10 years old at the time, traveled 7,500 miles from Iraq to Phoenix, accompanied only by a medical escort.
Lifesaving, Life-Changing Care
Hussein’s host mother, Debra, calls the dozen or so physicians who treated the boy a “dream team.”
Hussein underwent a left corneal transplant as well as reconstruction of his right eye socket. He was fitted with an artificial right eye and a prosthetic hand. Additional surgeries and dental work followed.
“The treatments were lifesaving and life-changing,” Debra says.
By the time Hussein returned to Iraq 15 months after arriving in Phoenix, he had regained some of his eyesight and had learned to use his new hand. His eyesight is limited, but he compensates by enlarging text on an iPad and using a text-to-speech converter.
Today, Hussein is 19 and works with in an Iraqi hospital. He works alongside doctors and therapists as an Arabic-English interpreter, where his English skills and his experience with medical professionals is useful.
His patients know he’s overcome adversity and physical limitation to be able to live independently. To them, he represents hope.
And Hussein feels fortunate to be in a position to inspire others.
“He considers it a miracle that he survived,” Debra says, “and is determined to make that same kind of impact on others.”
Imagine you’re 6 years old. After a terrifying accident, you were pried from a car, whisked into an ambulance and rushed to the trauma center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. All you can see are glaring lights and the faces of people you don’t know. Doctors are urgently giving orders. Nurses are putting a mask over your face and needles in your arm. You can‘t breathe; you’re disoriented, and no one knows your name yet. Your tears spill over and you begin to panic. Then, a Child Life Specialist enters the room. Everything changes.