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Basima Zalaan, 7, sits with her father, Zalaan Mohsin Rafea, during a visit from Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, at Zalaanâ??s home in Haditha, Iraq, June 12. Basima was the third child in the area to travel out of Iraq to receive surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. Basimaâ??s case was different from the other two because instead of traveling to the United States, she flew to Jordan for the surgery. Basima is recovering well and hopes to someday be a doctor.

Photo by Cpl. Erik Villagran

Doc welcomes little girl back

14 Jun 2008 | Cpl. Erik Villagran

Basima Zalaan, 7, may be a young girl, but she knows she has Marines and a Navy doctor to thank for her new life.

Basima recently returned here after traveling to Jordan for heart surgery. Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, and Iraqi Policemen escorted Navy Lt. Benjamin D. Wind, the surgeon with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, to her residence to welcome her home June, 12.

“The purpose of the visit was to welcome her and her father back, to show our concern and respect for their well being and to establish a medical follow up,” Wind said. “It was also to pass word of her health to the many people back in the United States who helped raise funding needed for her surgery.”

When Wind and the Marines arrived at her home, they were greeted by Basima’s father, Zalaan Mohsin Rafea, and a very happy family. Zalaan invited them in and immediately thanked Wind for his efforts. Before long, Basima was brought into the room.

She entered wearing her best dress and smiling at everyone in the room. She sat with her father and was initially timid but relaxed and enjoyed the attention she was receiving.

Her father has already noticed huge changes in her since the surgery. He says she can breathe easier now.

“She has been feeling very good since the surgery,” Zalaan said. “You can really see her beauty now. The color in her face is back. Her face used to look blue.”

The operation has allowed Basima to enjoy a much more normal life. She is the third child in the area who has received surgery to correct a heart defect.

Basima’s case stands out from the other two in the fact that she only had to travel to Jordan to receive the surgical procedure. The first two children to receive the procedure traveled to the United States.

Wind was happy that Basima was able to get the operation from a country nearby.

“The new goal is to reach out to the surrounding countries with medical resources capable of performing these procedures and ask for their assistance,” Wind said. “This will have enormous logistical advantages of geography and funding, as well as encouraging the Iraqi population to utilize their local resources rather than traveling thousands of miles away from their friends and family support system.”

The continued support Marines have provided for the local populace have made them popular in the community.

“I wish the Marines could stay,” Zalaan said. “They were able to take my daughter to a hospital to get treatment. They are doing good here.”

Although Basima doesn’t understand how important the operation she received is to building relations with countries in the region, she plans on enjoying the benefits, nevertheless.

“Now that I’m better, I’m going to school,” Basima said. “I want to go to school and become a doctor.”