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Iraqi Baby with Spina Bifida Recovering from Surgery


Doctors in the southern U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia say an Iraqi infant known as Baby Noor is doing well after surgery Monday to repair a severe spinal defect. But she faces additional surgery if fluid builds up in her brain.

Noor al-Zahra, nicknamed "Baby Noor," came from Iraq to the U.S. southern city of Atlanta, Georgia after an American National Guard unit from Georgia discovered the infant's family living in poverty in Baghdad. The soldiers noticed the baby's legs were paralyzed and she had a growth on her back. The three-month-old had spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth.

The National Guard unit worked with U.S. officials and charitable groups to bring her to Atlanta for treatment.

A Guardsman instrumental in getting help remarked, "It's really gratifying to know that my actions, and the actions of my platoon and unit could help this little girl. Give her the medical attention that she needs and potentially give her a new start in life."

On Monday, Baby Noor was carried into the operating room at a children's healthcare unit at Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta.

Under an operating room microscope, neurosurgeon Roger Hudgens uncovered the spinal cord.

Surgeons positioned her spinal cord in its proper place and removed a fluid-filled sac from the baby's back.

Doctor Hudgens says the surgery went well, despite the fact that the procedure ideally should be carried out within days of birth.

"It was as difficult as I thought it was going to be because this is not the time that we close a defect such as this."

Doctors say she most likely would have died without the operation. But despite the surgery, she will remain a paraplegic and will not be able to move her legs.