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Iraqi Boy, Waad Baktar, Saved by American Team

A nine-year Iraqi boy, Waad Baktar, who was disfigured and and maimed by a roadside bomb has a new lease on life and will be returning to Iraq this week, after four months of treatment in the states.  

He was on his way home from school, with some friends,  kicking cans as they walked along. The only problem was the can that Waad was kicking turned out to be an improvised explosive device, or roadside bomb. It detonated and he lost an eye, leg and arm and was severely burned.

He was saved through the combined efforts of Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, of the Garden City Based Long Island Surgical Group and United States Congressman Gary Ackerman, who was instrumental bringing the boy to Long Island, through the efforts of the Staten Island-based Global Medical Relief Fund and Elizza Montani.

In addition to the extensive treatment provided by Dr. Alizadeh, Waad received prosthetic limbs from Shiriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia and a prosthetic eye from Annette Kirszrot Ocular Prosthetics in New York City.

It all began when a United States soldier, stationed in Iraq, brought Waad’s situation to the attention of Elizza Montani, founder and director of the Global Medical Relief Fund. Montani brought the boy and his mother to her Staten Island facility, a former Jesuit retreat house and then turned to Dr. Alizadeh to treat his injuries.

Dr. Alizadeh said he had to work to reduce the scars that he could with skin grafts and by the use of expanders or balloons below the skin. The expanders enabled Dr. Alizadeh to then surgically remove the scarred skin and replace with multiple flap reconstructions. Dr. Alizadeh said, “My ultimate goal in treating Waad was to help him appear normal from a conversational distance.  

However, the scarring on his foot was so severe as to cause contracture, which limited his ability to walk. Dr. Alizadeh was able to surgically remove the scarred tissue and replace it with a skin graft.  As a result his foot will lie flat and he is able to walk more easily.  So much so, that during the press conference, held recently at North Shore/LIJ he was hopping up and down steps and actually running.

Since 1996 Montani has helped 106 children, most of whom have lost limbs in war zones, by personally arranging visas and sheperding them to the United States, where she hosts them in a three bedroom Staten Island facility provided by New York City Catholic archdiocese. She then arranges for free surgery, treatment and prosthesis.  The Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF) subsists on private and corporate donations.

Congressman Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommitee on the Middle East and South Asia, called young Waad a new “ambassador” to the United States and he then gave him an American Flag that had flown over the United States Capitol in Washington.  At the end of the press conference he was presented with a Teddy Bear to take back to Iraq.

Also at the press conference was an interpreter for  Waad, who lost an eye and saved by Dr. Alizadeh.

Dr. Alizadeh added that Waad will have to return to the states on an annual basis for follow-up visits and to re-fit the prosthetics as he grows.