As a lieutenant in the Iraqi Police force, Hamad risks his life everyday alongside U.S. Marines clearing land mines and protecting the borders from terrorists. Yet, there was little he could do to save his little boy from a life-threatening heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, a condition which is a complex of four heart abnormalities that starves the blood of oxygen, turning the boy’s skin blue. One of the most common congenital heart defects, the syndrome is treated surgically in U.S. children before their first birthday. It’s a routine operation in the U.S. but not in Iraq. Without surgery, Ammar would die within just a few years.
A group of U.S. Marines and Hamad developed a friendship as they worked tirelessly together to patrol Western Iraq. When these Marines learned Hamad’s little boy had a life-threatening heart problem, they immediately took action. The Marines convinced the Rotary Gift of Life Chapter in Charleston, through a grant, to pay for the needed surgery and MUSC Children’s Hospital agreed to perform the surgery. The Marines then collected $7,500 for two round-trip tickets from Iraq to Jordan to Charleston, S.C.
Hamad Muhammed brought his five-year-old son Ammar all the way from Haditha, Iraq, to
Charleston, S.C., for a lifesaving heart surgery at MUSC Children’s Hospital.
“Ammar has a large hole in his heart and a severe obstruction between his heart and lungs, giving him the classic “blue baby” look around his lips and extremities,” said Dr. Andy Atz, director of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at MUSC Children’s Hospital. “Bluish skin, shortness of breath and fainting are typical in children with this syndrome and without surgery, they rarely live long into their teenage years.”
Ammar has surgery to remove baby teeth with cavities which reduces the risk of infection after the heart surgery. With the help of a translator, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Scott Bradley explains to Hamad how they will fix his son’s heart in surgery. A few days later, Dr. Bradley and his surgical team perform the operation which will give Ammar a new chance at life.
During the four-hour surgery, doctors patch a hole in Ammar’s beating heart and widen a critical blood vessel to his lungs. The operation succeeds. Only hours after the surgery, the color in Ammar’s lips and feet begin to return to normal. Three days after surgery, Ammar is playing with toys in his room and eating chips before being discharged from the hospital.
Major Kevin Jarrard returns from Iraq but before going home, he keeps his promise to visit Ammar and Hamad in Charleston. Ammar is thrilled to see him and shows off his scar. Two weeks after surgery, Ammar and Hamad return to Iraq. Hamad is excited to know his boy is healthy and will run and play with his sisters and brother back home. He will never forget the kindess of the Marines, the doctors and all the people who gave his son a second chance at life.
ABC World News John McKenzie reports on Ammar’s story
Iraqi boy in Charleston for Lifesaving Procedure — Post and Courier
“A promise kept” -- article by Charleston Post and Courier