ATLANTA – An Iraqi infant with severe birth defects is "engaging and interactive" as she awaits a lifesaving operation, her doctor said Monday.
Dr. Roger Hudgins, a pediatric neurosurgeon who agreed to operate on the three-month-old baby with spina bifida, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that Baby Noor al-Zahra could have some paralysis or weakness in her legs after the operation.
"Quality of life is very important but if we don't get rid of this defect it will eventually take her life as well," he said.
The child left Baghdad in a military transport plane Friday, accompanied by her grandmother and father.
U.S. troops discovered the baby three weeks ago during a raid of a house in Abu Ghraib, a poverty-stricken district west of Baghdad. The soldiers noticed paralysis in the baby's legs and what the thought was a tumor on her back.
They later learned the 3-month-old child had spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth. The "tumor" on the baby's back was actually a fluid-filled sac containing part of the spinal cord and membranes that are supposed to cover the spinal cord.
U.S. doctors were sent e-mail photos of the baby and received some medical information, but they still needed to do a full evaluation before attempting surgery, said Hudgins.
Doctors usually operate on spina bifida victims immediately after birth, making this operation "quite unusual," Hudgins said. But the baby's situation was "stable," giving doctors enough time to do appropriate studies.
"We have very high hopes for her," he said.