Iraqi Child in Need Travels to Atlanta for Surgery

Jan 06, 2006, 00:00 ET from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

    ATLANTA, Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- After being rescued by soldiers of the
 Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Brigade during a home raid in Baghdad in
 early December, 3-month-old Iraqi "Baby Noor" was flown to Children's
 Healthcare of Atlanta to receive life-saving surgery.  Baby Noor was born with
 spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column fails to completely
 close. She is being treated by Roger Hudgins, M.D., chief of neurosurgery at
 Children's. Dr. Hudgins will be assisted by Fernando Burstein, M.D., Medical
 Director of the Center for Craniofacial Disorders at Children's. Children's
 and the surgeons have offered to perform the delicate operation at no cost.
     Baby Noor's Discovery
     As the Iraqi family nervously watched the soldiers search their home, the
 baby's grandmother brought to the soldiers' attention a purple pouch
 protruding from the infant's back. Iraqi doctors had told Noor's parents she
 would live only 45 days without corrective surgery. The members of the 48th
 Brigade vowed to do whatever it took to bring the little girl to the U.S. for
 the medical care she so desperately needed.
     On the soldiers' newly adopted "mission" to save Baby Noor, they
 dispatched their pleas to numerous contacts in the U.S., including the office
 of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). Chambliss' office then contacted Children's,
 which immediately agreed to donate its services to Baby Noor. In the meantime,
 Childspring International, an Atlanta-based organization that seeks medical
 care for children worldwide, worked with Sen. Chambliss and contacts stateside
 and abroad to arrange for necessary paperwork to bring Noor and her family to
 Atlanta. The organization also identified a host family to house Noor's family
 while she was being treated at Children's and responded to the community's
 offers of support.
     "It is an honor for me to help this child who means so much to our Army
 National Guard," Hudgins said.  "After all, these are the brave men and women
 who risk their lives daily to serve our country. I feel privileged to play
 whatever role I can in helping them and this child."
     During the surgery, Hudgins plans to place the spinal cord down the center
 of Noor's back and cover it with muscle and tissue. Dr. Hudgins has requested
 the assistance of craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Fernando Burstein, a plastic
 surgeon with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of skeletal
 abnormalities of the skull and facial bones.  Dr. Burstein will help ensure
 that Baby Noor not only feels normal after surgery, but that the skin on her
 back heals properly following surgery.
     "I am honored to have the opportunity to play a role in Baby Noor's
 surgery and will strive to ensure that she will be as normal as possible, have
 a smooth recovery and enjoy a healthy childhood," Burstein said.
     What Is Spina Bifida?
     Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the bones of the spine (vertebrae)
 do not form properly around the spinal cord. This can occur anywhere along the
 spine. Spina bifida is the most common of a group of birth defects called
 neural tube defects.
     Spina bifida develops in a fetus early in pregnancy, often before a woman
 knows she is pregnant. In the United States, about 1 in every 2,000 children
 is born with spina bifida. It is one of the most common birth defects,
 although the rates have declined steadily in recent years.
     There are two main types of spina bifida: spina bifida occulta and spina
 bifida manifesta.
     Spina bifida occulta is the milder form. The spinal defect is hidden under
 the skin and does not usually cause problems or need treatment. Doctors
 estimate that 10 to 24 percent of the general population unknowingly have this
 spinal defect.  In some cases, a dimple, depression, birthmark or hairy patch
 forms over the skin where more than one vertebrae is affected. This is
 referred to as occult spinal dysraphism (OSD).
     Spina bifida aperta is the more severe form of this birth defect. It often
 is associated with nerve damage that can result in problems with walking,
 bladder control and coordination. It can be separated into two classes,
 meningocele and myelomeningocele.
      * In meningocele, fluid leaks out of the spinal canal, causing a swollen
        area over the baby's spine.
      * In myelomeningocele, a segment of the
        spinal nerves pushes out of the spinal canal against the underside of
        the skin. The nerves are often damaged. In the worst cases, the skin is
        open and the nerves are exposed to the outside of the body.
     Baby Noor has been diagnosed with myelomeningocele (spina bifida aperta)
 and is tentatively scheduled for surgery on Monday, January 9.  Children's
 Healthcare of Atlanta will not have any further information or updates until
 Baby Noor is readmitted to Children's. Until that time, any questions
 regarding Baby Noor, her family or the host family should be directed to Helen
 Shepard of Childspring International at 404-228-7744 or
     Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric healthcare
 systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits from
 the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our community. With 430
 licensed beds in two hospitals and more than 450,000 annual patient visits,
 Children's is nationally recognized for excellence in cancer, cardiac,
 neonatal, orthopaedic and transplant care, as well as in many other pediatric
 specialties. Child magazine ranks Children's as one of the top 10 children's
 hospitals nationwide and Children's is among U.S. News & World Report's top
 pediatric hospitals. To learn more about Children's Healthcare of Atlanta,
 visit or call 404-250-KIDS.
     Childspring International, a faith-based, non-profit organization, aims to
 give children around the world expert medical care and opportunities for a
 better life.  Based in Atlanta, Childspring has provided treatment to hundreds
 of children in more than 20 states across the U.S. and in more than 38
 countries worldwide.  The non-profit organization relies on monetary and in-
 kind donations to provide children with the best help possible.  To get
 involved or to find out more about Childspring International please visit or call 404.228.7744.
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SOURCE Children's Healthcare of Atlanta