ATLANTA – The first of a series of operations for Baby Noor, an Iraqi infant who has severe birth defects of the spine, was successful Monday, a hospital spokesman said.
Three-month-old Noor al-Zahra was "doing well" and was in recovery Monday morning at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said hospital spokesman Kevin McClelland.
McClelland said in a statement that she "will reunite with her family within the hour."
Hospital officials declined to release additional information, saying more details will be released at a 4:30 p.m. news conference.
Baby Noor has spina bifida, in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth. In Monday's surgery, doctors planned to place her spinal cord in its proper place down the center of the back and cover it with muscle and other tissue.
While doctors had been optimistic about the surgery, they have said they are worried about how well the girl will be monitored for complications after she returns to Iraq later this year. And even if the operations are a success, doctors predict she will need to use a wheelchair.
Dr. Roger Hudgins, a pediatric neurosurgeon who agreed to take the case, said the baby would have died without medical intervention. With surgery, her chances of survival are good, he said.
Children's Healthcare is providing treatment for free. The surgery and accompanying care would cost about $200,000 if it were billed, officials have said.
Baby Noor was discovered several weeks ago by U.S. troops raiding a house in Abu Ghraib, a poverty-stricken district in Iraq west of Baghdad. The soldiers noticed paralysis in the baby's legs and what appeared to be a tumor on her back.
They later learned the 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.
One of the soldiers, Lt. Jeff Morgan, e-mailed a friend in Douglasville who is a social worker. They enlisted the help of a variety of officials and social service organizations. Through those efforts, Noor, her grandmother and her father were brought to the United States late last month.