COLUMBUS, Ohio – Getting an 8-month-old Iraqi girl to Ohio for free medical treatment for a possibly fatal lesion in her neck required a maze of phone calls, paperwork and e-mails that one Army doctor described as an "octopus."
After the girl arrived with her mother on a military flight, Dr. Gayle Gordillo at Children's Hospital in Columbus (search) made an initial diagnosis Thursday that Fatemah Hassan had a large hemangioma.
A hemangioma (search) is a dense group of blood vessels that grows abnormally large, sometimes so large that it could restrict an airway.
Treating a baby at three hospitals in Iraq, then arranging for her to travel to the United States required help from more than a dozen military officials and legislators, said Maj. Neal O'Brien, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.
Other Iraqi children have been brought to the United States for medical treatment, but it only happens in limited cases, O'Brien said by phone from Iraq.
"The bottom line is it's the right thing to do and if you have the capability to do it, which we did, then you do it," he said.
Fatemah was blue from lack of oxygen when her parents brought her April 30 to the front gate of Forward Operating Base Rough Rider on the Iran-Iraq border.
"This has been like an octopus," Lt. Col. Michael Brumage, the 1st Division's surgeon, said in a news release.
Fatemah arrived in Columbus late Wednesday on a cargo plane that had been converted to hold medical patients. The plane ride, arranged by the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (search) near Dayton, took more than two days because of a 24-hour layover in Germany and a scheduled stop in Washington, D.C., to drop off injured soldiers.
Gordillo, director of the Hemangioma and Vascular Malformation Clinic (search) at Children's, said Fatemah was being treated with a high dose of steroids, which normally stops the growth of a hemangioma.
"We're evaluating her airway and just making sure she's healthy in general. She's had some problems with infections and we're doing more definitive imaging to confirm the diagnosis," Gordillo said Thursday.
Treatment was expected to last about eight weeks, Gordillo said.
During the treatment, a Kurdish family will host the mother and daughter, who are part of Iraq's Kurdish ethnic minority.