An Iraqi boy underwent surgery to close holes in his heart, an operation doctors performed for free after the boy's mother lost the money to pay for it to militiamen who killed her husband.

Dunia Abdelrahman feared her son, 20-month-old Badr Taha, would die without the surgery that was performed Thursday to correct a condition called tetralogy of Fallot, a hole between two chambers in the heart that prevents blood from properly flowing to the lungs. The condition thickens blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen, creating the risk of stroke.

Doctors closed a large hole in the center of the boy's heart, along with a smaller hole, and mended a narrow tube that obstructed blood flow between the heart and lungs, said Dr. Mark Galantowicz, who performed the four-hour surgery at Columbus Children's Hospital.

Badr should be up and around in a week, and he is expected to make a full recovery, the doctor said.

"He has zero limitations," Galantowicz said. "That is the beauty of this type of heart problem. You can expect a return to normal life."

Doctors detected the boy's heart defect when he developed flu-like symptoms two weeks after he was born, but the Iraqi hospital lacked the resources to treat it.

The boy and his mother were brought to Columbus last week by the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, which arranges medical care for Middle Eastern children who cannot receive help in their home countries.

Abdelrahman and her husband Nawar Taha, had slowly saved the equivalent of US$46,000 to take Badr from their home in Baghdad to Jordan for treatment. But Shiite militiamen kidnapped Taha, a 36-year-old Sunni, from in front of their home in July, and Abdelrahman tried to use the money to ransom her husband.

Taha was killed July 4, leaving his 30-year-old wife widowed and unable to afford her son's operation.

She turned to her brother, who vowed to be a father figure for Badr, but he was killed in January as he helped American workers fix electronics.