HADITHA, Iraq --
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 recently escorted Navy Lt. Benjamin D. Wind to the home of a special patient here.
Wind, the battalion surgeon, scheduled a trip to visit a little girl and local celebrity named Amenah Al’a Thabit.
Amenah, 3, was the first of three Iraqi children in the area to receive surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. If the condition had not been treated, the result would have been fatal, Wind said.
Fortunately, thanks to around $28,000 in private donations, Amenah and her mother, Maha Muhamed Bandar, were able to travel to the United States for her surgery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
“There is one common trait amongst all that bind human civilizations, and that is our love for our children and wishes for their good health and prosperity,” Wind said.
That common trait has led to Coalition forces helping more children with similar conditions until the new Haditha Hospital is finished and able to support these kinds of surgeries in the future. With the help of the local Iraqi government, they have helped two more children in the Haditha area and explored new ways to provide children in Iraq the medical treatment they need, including seeking help from surrounding countries like Jordan.
“These cases help to educate the Iraqi people about the presence of world-class medicine local to this region within their cultural boundaries, and that it is obtainable,” Wind said.
Amenah’s case has shown how successful the program can be. The results of the surgery were displayed during the Marines’ visit as Amenah played with her sisters.
“She was a vibrant young girl, running around with her siblings and actively engaging with the multiple guests as any young child should be,” Wind said.
Her father, Al’a Thabit Fattah, said she has not had any major problems since the surgery. During the visit, Amenah could be heard speaking a few English words she had learned when she traveled to the United States. Her father supports the Marines helping the children of Iraq, but understands changes are needed in the country.
“I hope the Marines continue the program,” Fattah said. “I know we need to have better doctors because the Marines won’t be here forever.”
Wind has been amazed by the impact Amenah has made. It has opened the doors for more children to receive medical care that gives them a second chance in life.
“In a country that has seen so many atrocities under the previous regime, as well as empty promises, it was exciting to see that such a small child could empower and invigorate an entire community towards making strides for improvements,” Wind said.