By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Britt Smith
Soldiers from the 48th Brigade Combat Team arranged for an ailing Iraqi teen to be evaluated at a combat support hospital and then transfered to Baghdad for additional treatment.
CAMP ADDER, AN NASIRIYAH, Iraq, Jan. 6, 2006 – In the middle of a country where medical care is tough to come by, a new bond was recently forged between Georgia’s Army National Guard soldiers and local Iraqi citizens. Ibitisam Hameed Kassar, a 17-year-old Iraqi girl from the An Nasiriyah area, was born with a rare blood vessel disorder called pulmonary hypertension.
“It gives the Iraqi people a new perspective about Americans. We are the final stop for many of them with regard to medical care.” U.S. Army 1st Lt. Fernando Mendez
This rare condition causes severe shortness of breath as well as fatigue, chest pain and dizziness. Ibitisam lives in an area of Iraq where physical ability to work is necessary for all aspects of life, school included. Her condition made it difficult, if not impossible, to walk to school or to work the small plot of land her family calls home. As a result she has spent the majority of her young life inside her home, unable to do much more than smile and keep her mother company during the day.
Hope for any treatment was remote and unlikely, that is until the 48th Brigade Combat Team showed up a few months ago.
The 48th Brigade’s civil affairs team heard about her plight and arranged for her to be seen at the Camp Adder base hospital staffed by the 10th Combat Support Hospital out of Fort Sill, Okalahoma.
“We arranged it through the [10th Combat Support Hospital] for Ibitisam to be treated by U.S. doctors” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Lawson from Midland, Ga., a platoon sergeant for the 48th Brigade Combat Team civil affairs section.
The road to treatment was a long one. Ibtisam’s mother Rahima Abid Lafi knows. “It took three years to reach the Americans, and it’s a very good feeling to have the help from the U.S. soldiers.”
Help is what the medical professionals of the 10th Combat Support Hospital provide and after running tests the doctors determined that she needed additional treatment at a larger facility in the International Zone of Baghdad.
Ibtisam’s short stay at the combat support hospital produced a collection of new friends who were eager to do all they could to make her comfortable while she was prepared for her first helicopter ride.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Fernando Mendez, head operating room nurse who hails from San Antonio, Texas, puts it in perspective. “It gives the Iraqi people a new perspective about Americans. We are the final stop for many of them with regard to medical care.”
He added, “that it makes the job great, its medical care and that’s what it is all about.”
Both mother and daughter made the trip to Baghdad aboard a Blackhawk helicopter for the additional tests and treatments. Ibtisam’s outcome is unknown but friendships were forged and trust gained, by both U.S soldiers and Iraqi citizens. “We are mind changers. What we do here today will help both countries gain a better understanding of each other,” Mendez said.