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Iraqi Girl Has Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles


An Iraqi girl whose face was disfigured in aerial shelling will return home this month after a series of surgeries in Los Angeles. The 12-year-old patient received reconstructive surgery to rebuild her nose.

In April 2003, a coalition missile struck the home of young Marwa Naim in northern Baghdad, killing her mother and severely disfiguring the young girl.

An aid organization called International Relief and Development first learned of her plight as they worked with her father in helping him set up a business.

Two other non-government organizations, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict and Palestine Children's Relief Fund, made arrangements with the UCLA Medical Center, where doctors donated their skills. She arrived at the center in February.

The girl's nose had been destroyed. The first operation used a skin flap from the forehead to form the skin for a new nose, says plastic surgeon Timothy Miller. He says the procedure is very old, and was first mentioned in texts from India 3,000 years ago.

"That was the first operation," said Timothy Miller. "In the second, we put cartilage from her ear into the nasal tip to give it some shape."

Two more operations completed the reconstruction.

Lily Karam of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund says hospital staff and aid workers have avoided raising painful memories with the young patient.

"In Marwa's case, she's just a wonderful, thankful young girl," said Lily Karam. "She just really appreciates everything that anybody does for her. We have tried not to really bring up the negative stories about what happened to her. Basically, we're focused on her getting well, and happy, and just giving her the best care that we can."

During her four months in Los Angeles, Marwa has studied English, played basketball and gone biking. Later this month, she will rejoin her father, older brother and two younger sisters in Iraq.

Hospital workers says that with her reconstructive surgery completed, the girl hopes to return to school and eventually study business administration.