Texans Make Life-Saving Operation for Iraqi Boy Possible

A group of Texas soldiers is celebrating the successful heart surgery of an Iraqi boy. Members of hte 56th Brigade combat team of the Texas Army National Guard paid for the seven-year-old to travel to Houston for a life-saving operation.

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Kadhem Jawad Kathem is seven years old and has never been able to attend school, play outside with other children or even walk long distances. That's because Kadhem has lived with a congenital heart defect that reduced the flow of oxygen in his blood. When members of the 56th BCT heard about his condition they decided they wanted to get involved. It's not known how many people contributed, but anonymous donations from the unit covered expenses for Kadhem and his father to come to Texas Children's Hospital, where a team awaited his arrival. Dr. Mark Fraser is the chief of pediatric cardiovascular surgery. He says the surgery likely saved Kadhem's life.

The Army was alerted to Kadhem's condition when his mother requested medical attention from the town clinic. A medic in Iraq contacted Texas Children's by email and began the process of getting visas for Kadhem and his father. Surgeons operated on Kadhem on Tuesday and expect his recovery to go well. Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bently shared his thoughts by conference call from Iraq.

Kadhem will spend about a week in the hospital, and then stay in Houston for about a month as doctors monitor his progress. Dr. Fraser says he told Kadhem's father the boy should be able live a healthy normal life.

If all goes as expected, Kadhem and his father will return to Iraq and be reunited with the rest of their family some time in August. Kadhem will then enroll in school for the first time.

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