It was around lunch time in the heat of June in Iraq when Abdulkareem's father came into my office. He told me that his son was very sick, that he was very poor, and that he needed our help and was willing to do whatever he could to make it happen.
We were preparing our July group for surgery in Turkey and one of the children had just withdrawn from the group. It looked like we might be able to squeeze Abdulkareem in at the last minute if all the right pieces fell into place quickly.
Abdulkareem's father worked especially hard for his little boy.
He traveled from his home in Diyala to Baghdad to get passports for the family. He came to the office and called regularly to see what our status was with regards to funding for his son's place on the Turkey surgery list.
There are two days in the duration of my journey with this family that I am unlikely to forget. The first was the day that Abdulkareem's father - Hafez Bey - looked into my eyes and, with all the passion of a protective but powerless father, said, "Just help my little boy; just do something to save my little boy."
Unfortunately, it did not work out to take Abdulkareem to Turkey with us for various reasons and we began the race against the clock to provide Abdulkareem surgery before his condition deteriorated any further. Our as-of-yet untested next option was our first Remedy Mission in August 2010. We gave Abdulkareem a priority spot on the Remedy Mission list. The day our surgical team arrived Hafez Bey must have seen us on the news because he called me 10 times: "Is my boy going to surgery? Mr Jeremy, just do something to help my little boy!"
There is one other day in the life of this family that I won't forget - the day Abdulkareem had surgery earlier this week. I remember it so distinctly because after the surgery Hafez Bey grabbed me and kissed me and gave me an emotional "thank you" for making good on our commitment to his family.
One of the things we always try to explain to families is the presence of hundreds of people in the States and Europe - people like you - who work together to make every surgery possible. Of course, parents appreciate the ability to personalize their gratitude, but we talk about you frequently because we could not have saved Abdulkareem's life without your many gifts to our Remedy Mission.
If you like what you've been able to be a part of this week with us (and there seem to be hundreds of you viewing the website and videos each day), please take two minutes to give toward the next Remedy Mission, the next Abdulkareem, and to the next father who is eagerly waiting for someone to help his little child.
Remedy Missions are international pediatric heart surgery teams that we bring to Iraq to to perform lifesaving heart surgeries and develop the infrastructure for the future. If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #Remedy or #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove and @babyheart_org. If you’re on Facebook, “Share” this story with the button below.
Photos by Heber Vega and Lydia Bullock.