Posted by Sadie from ? (18.104.22.168) on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 at 2:19PM :
Ronak Khan, left, holds her son Ahmed Mahmood just days after he received treatment for spina bifida at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. At press time, he was recovering in stable condition and was expected to be released this week. (Photo by Dana Johnson)
Iraqi baby travels to Vanderbilt to undergo life-altering surgery
by Carole H. Bartoo
July 11, 2003
While the rest of the nation was celebrating Independence Day, a 4-month-old Iraqi-born boy underwent surgery at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for a debilitating birth defect called spina bifida.
As of press time, Ahmed Mahmood was recovering in stable condition at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and will likely be released this week.
The baby, who was born just days before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March, was flown from Iraq to Nashville July 3 for the surgery, which closed the baby’s open lower spine and removed a large sac of spinal fluid called a meningocele.
The war in Iraq made it virtually impossible for Mahmood to receive proper medical care. Mahmood’s mother, Ronak Khan, had taken care to protect the large sac that protruded from the boy’s spine, a difficult task in a country that had been drained of medical equipment from years of sanctions, but the sac had begun to leak in recent weeks.
The baby’s uncle, and Nashville resident, Abdul Koshnaw approached Vanderbilt Neonatologist Dr. Brian Carter, asking if there was something that could be done for his nephew in Iraq. Carter, realizing that Vanderbilt donates surgery to children in life-or-death situations, wasted no time in making arrangements. The surgery was done at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for free.
The baby traveled from Erbil, through Amman, Jordan to Chicago and eventually here to Nashville.
“There was no way this surgery would have happened in Iraq,” said Khoshnaw. “With the war, the hospitals were not operating.”
Neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Boone examined Mahmood soon after he and his mother arrived at the Pediatric Emergency Department at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital at nearly 1 a.m. July 4. Crews from local Nashville TV stations documented their arrival.
Boone said repairing the defect could save the boy’s life. If bacteria got into the fluid and multiplied, the baby could suffer a terrible infection causing further nerve or brain damage, and quite likely, death, according to Boone.
At 10 a.m. July 4, Boone teamed up with chief neurosurgery resident Dr. Oran Aaronson to carefully open and drain the cyst on the back of baby Ahmed’s spine. The stretched and misshapen tissue was carefully cut away from delicate nerve roots and the roots were tucked back into the space where they belong. A procedure like this is fairly routine, except that the babies who get it in this country are 12 hours old, not 4 months old, said Boone.
Mahmood weathered the two-hour surgery very well. The procedure will not fix the nerve damage he has already suffered, but it will keep him safe from infection, and allow him to look and feel more normal.
As with any case of spina bifida, it is likely Mahmood will have muscle weakness below the hips, and may have bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction later in life, but the degree of damage won’t be known for some time.
Doctors put a shunt in Mahmood’s brain Tuesday, July 8 to remove excess fluid.
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