CHARLESTON, W.Va. – An Iraqi lawyer who helped U.S. forces rescue Jessica Lynch (search) said he faked a heart attack to get back into the hospital and obtain more information.
Mohammed al-Rehaief (search) said on "Dateline NBC" Friday night that he decided to act after seeing an Iraqi colonel strike Lynch in her hospital bed.
According to al-Rehaief's book, he first spotted an American at the hospital where his wife worked as a nurse on March 23, the day Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company (search) was ambushed in Nasiriyah.
Lynch, a 20-year-old Army supply clerk, suffered broken bones and other injuries in the attack.
Al-Rehaief noticed heavy security around one particular room. He told Dateline NBC he sneaked past a sleeping guard and peeked through a window into Lynch's room, where he saw the colonel interrogating her.
That night, he reached the Marines and told them what he saw. He said he agreed to go back to the hospital to collect more information, but also wanted to get his wife and 5-year-old daughter out of Nasiriyah.
When he returned home the next day, his house had been ransacked and his family was missing, although they turned out to be in hiding with al-Rehaief's brother. Two neighbors loyal to Saddam Hussein tried to capture al-Rehaief, but he said he managed to escape.
With the help of his sister-in-law, a prominent doctor at the hospital, al-Rehaief faked a heart attack to get back in, then went to Lynch's room.
"I wanted to talk to her but I know I'm running out of time. So I tried to give her a little bit of hope," he said. "I said, 'Don't worry.' She smiled a little bit and my sister-in-law said, 'Let's get out of here."'
While leaving the hospital, his left retina was permanently damaged from a bomb dropped by a Cobra helicopter to deter Iraqis from heading toward the front.
Al-Rehaief made his way to a U.S. Marine camp where he drew maps that led to Lynch's successful rescue on April 1.
"I felt I was born again. It was like something that came to balance the loss of my eye," al-Rehaief said.
Al-Rehaief, his wife and 5-year-old daughter have been granted asylum in the United States.
Telephone messages to the Lynch home and to a family spokeswoman weren't immediately returned Friday night.
Al-Rehaief's book, "Because Each Life Is Precious," was released Friday. NBC plans to air a film on Nov. 9 on the experience of Lynch's Army unit and her rescuers. The film is being made without Lynch's participation.