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3rd ID soldiers have child's health in sight
iraqi child
Army Capt. (Dr.) Angie M. Pruitt, 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, examines the eyes of 5-year-old Noor Taha Najee on March 14. - photo by U.S. Army photo
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- An Iraqi girl and her family, as well as 3rd ID soldiers here, anxiously await a Los Angeles organization's decision that will determine the fate of the girl's eyesight.
Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, escorted 5-year-old Noor to the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad on March 14 so an optometrist could evaluate her eyes.
The medical evaluation will give doctors almost 8,000 miles away the information they need to determine whether they'll perform corneal transplant surgery that might save the girl's sight.
The initial diagnosis by Lt. Col. (Dr.) Hee-Choon Lee, battalion surgeon for the 2nd BCT, found that Noor is blind because of a birth defect that resulted in poorly developed corneas in both of her eyes. Her 32-year-old uncle, Mustafa, suffers from the same problem.
Doctors from the Eye Defects Research Foundation, a nongovernmental organization in Los Angeles, are evaluating the information from Noor's appointment and will decide whether she is a viable candidate for surgery and, if she is, where the surgery would take place.
Lee said if representatives from the foundation can find other patients to operate on in Iraq, then a trip could be organized. If not, then coalition forces would work to have the girl and her family taken to Los Angeles for the surgery.
Noor's uncle also is being evaluated for surgery, but his case requires more caution because he is an adult, and his eyes might not heal as easily as his niece's, Lee said.
"I think Noor's left eye has a lot of hope," the doctor said. "Her right eye may not be a good candidate, because it is too small. All the (ultrasound) pictures were sent up, and we're waiting."
Even if she gets the surgery, Lee cautioned, it's possible Noor's sight can't be saved. An Emory University study of corneal transplant success in pediatric patients showed the success rate in the best of circumstances is only 50 percent.
"We are all working toward getting this young girl the gift of sight," Lee said.
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