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Iraqi Boy Visits Garden City to Receive Life-Changing Surgeries

He may have just turned 4 years old, but he’s already a star. As he played innocently with toys and blew out the candles on his birthday cake, members of the media, along government officials, U.S. Marines and local surgeons, gathered to welcome Zeenabdeen Hadi and his family to Long Island at the offices of the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group (LIPSG) in Garden City.   

After a car bomb exploded near Zeenabdeen’s home in Iraq, it caused a live wire from a pole to snake across his face, leaving him critically injured and scarred. Local American military personnel assisted in bringing the child to the U.S. for medical attention and the boy’s uncle sought the assistance of Elissa Montani and her charity, Global Medical Relief Fund, which is providing transportation and other resources for the boy’s health, safety and well-being while he is staying on Long Island.

In the explosion, Zeenabdeen lost part of skull and jaw line and will undergo a series of at least four corrective surgeries over the course of the next six months thanks to the efforts of Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh and his medical team at the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group. The procedures are estimated to cost $250,000 and will be funded through the efforts of the LIPSG’s non-profit group Mission: Restore, according to Dr. Alizadeh.

Providing his medical services pro bono, Dr. Alizadeh said he gets a “high” from being able to positively affect a child’s life in such a drastic way. “The great thing about surgery is that it is very immediate. You actually get to see the effects right away… Plastic surgery even more so. It makes our job a little bit harder. His uncle said the other day ‘it’s between you and God that this works.’ That’s a little pressure on our end because we want to make sure it’s done the right way,” Dr. Alizadeh said.

When asked about the boy’s long-term prognosis as his face grows and changes, Dr. Alizadeh said that a person can never go back to having perfect facial skin because the technology is not yet available. “Our goal is at a conversational distance, he doesn’t attract attention and he doesn’t feel embarrassed and ashamed about how he looks,” he said.

Carolyn Spector, J.D., LL.M, the executive director of Mission Restore, said she forms very close bonds with the families that the organization helps. “It’s just really an honor to be able to help this little boy…it warms my heart,” she said.

In a statement to the press, Senator Jack Martins, who was also in attendance, offered his support to the family. “We are all praying for young Zeenabdeen. He is a courageous young man who is going to receive the best of medical care. I want to recognize the efforts of Hasan Khazaal, who saved his nephew’s life. I also want to thank Elissa Montanti and her charity, Global Medical Relief Fund, for helping to get Zeenabdeen to America. Through the efforts and generosity of Dr. Alizadeh, the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group and Mission: Restore, Zeenabdeen will heal and have promise for a bright future. This is a story we can all learn from. It is one about the perseverance and enduring spirit of a young boy and his uncle and the compassion and generosity of many individuals all coming together to help. My office will be available to assist in any way we can,” said Senator Martins.

Legislator Richard Nicolello wished Zeenabdeen a happy birthday on behalf of all Nassau County residents and thanked all those who supported the effort. “We get involved in government and we try to do good things to make differences in people’s lives, but there are very few things like this which make a direct immediate impact on the quality someone’s life,” he said.