January 9, 2006

Iraqi baby recovering after surgery in US

ATLANTA (Reuters) - An Iraqi baby with a life-threatening
birth defect was "doing well" and recovering on Monday after
surgery, an Atlanta hospital said.

Three-month-old Noor was sent to the United States for
medical treatment by members of Georgia's Army National Guard
who came across her during a raid on her family's house in Iraq
last month.

Noor, who arrived in Atlanta with her grandmother and
father more than a week ago, had surgery to straighten out her
spinal cord at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a pediatric
hospital that is providing free care for the infant.

The baby was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in
which the spinal column fails to completely close, leaving part
of the spinal cord exposed and susceptible to life-threatening
infection. She has a large growth on her back.

The hospital said Noor was "doing well" in a statement
released shortly after the nearly three-hour surgery on Monday.

During the surgery, doctors made an incision on the
fluid-filled growth on her back, located her spinal cord and
moved it to its proper place, said Jennifer Sinclair, a
spokeswoman at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Doctors then
covered the back with skin.

"It looks like she will require the use of a wheelchair,
that she may not be able to walk, but of course you don't want
to say never," Sinclair said.

The baby's plight came to light when soldiers with the
Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Brigade Combat Team searched
her family's home in a poor Baghdad neighborhood last month,
looking for insurgents.

They found none, but the baby's grandmother showed the
soldiers a purple pouch protruding from the child's back and
the soldiers sought help in finding her treatment. Without
intervention, Noor would have died, doctors at the Atlanta
hospital said.

A children's medical charity, Childspring International,
helped organized Noor's trip to the United States and arranged
for the baby and her relatives to stay in Atlanta.