As our mission here in Fallujah draws to an end, we want to celebrate our new friend, Dr. Mohammad. We first met him a few months ago with our Japanese friend, Nahoko. Dr. Mohammad is a pediatric cardiologist who recently returned from a six month training fellowship in India, where he made serious advancements in his skills. Unfortunately, in the city of Tikrit, where he works, they do not have the capacity to serve children.
In an effort to reward his initiative and hard work, we recommended that he ask his counterparts in Fallujah for permission to participate in the inaugural Fallujah Remedy Mission. Thankfully, he has great friends in Fallujah—colleagues from med school—and we were able to give Dr. Mohammad a chance to practice his new techniques in the context of his home country.
Whereas Dr. Firas was the "first man on the moon" in Fallujah—he quickly and humbly insisted that Dr. Mohammad should be Buzz Aldrin and take the second procedure. It was a beautiful sight to see these two guys "over the moon" about their historic moment together.
As our relationship developed over the course of the week, we began exploring the possibility of launching a similar program in Dr. Mohammad's hometown of Tikrit in the coming months. Saturday, after our work was done in Fallujah, our gracious hosts at Fallujah General Hospital agreed to take us up the road a few hours to Tikrit Teaching Hospital to meet with its leadership and explore possibilities for future partnership.
Touring the hospital was a sobering experience. So many sincere, passionate doctors who used to be at the height of healthcare in the Middle East are now struggling to serve their patients.
After the tour, Dr. Kirk and I sat in the director's office with the two lead pediatric cardiologists—Dr. Alaa and Dr. Mohammad. When I asked how many other teams from around the world had visited the hospital, I was surprised by their response. It was almost confusion:
"What do you mean? No one has ever come to visit us. You are the first team to even visit. If you decide to work here with us, you will be the first to teach here and treat children here."
Dr. Kirk, Mrs. Qaragholi and I are all very humbled to be invited into such an amazing, opportunity. Because this is probably the thing that most defines our Coalition: we want to be where no one else wants to be. Find us a group of people who have been excluded or written off by the majority and you've found our kind of people.
Tikrit is a very storied city; one of those places that really represents something. And because of that, it's a place that is easy to characterize and marginalize.
Dr. Mohammad, Dr. Kirk, & Dr. Firas. Photo credit: Mary Porisch
As we piled into our caravan to drive back to Fallujah, the local doctors gathered around the entrance of the hospital and earnestly pleaded, "Please, don't forget us. Don't forget us after you leave." We are working every angle we can in hopes of securing a partnership in Tikrit. In any case, we will never forget them, their kindness, and their passion for serving the children of their city. God willing, we will join them in that effort one day soon.