Natalie and Noah Baker Merrill, Direct Aid Initiative, Aug 17, 2007
The Direct Aid Initiative
is a project of Electronic Iraq intended to support Iraqis displaced as
the result of the ongoing Iraqi crises through providing funds for
crucial medical expenses.
Buthaina H. Muhammad, 38, was injured when a mortar hit her home in Baghdad. She is now in a hospital in Amman in need of a critical surgery.
UPDATE (August 17):DAI contributed funds toward Buthaina's ongoing medical needs. Due
to ongoing struggles with infection, Buthaina has still been unable to
have the abdominal surgery she needs, but DAI's contributions have
allowed her to continue to remain in the intensive care unit in the
hospital in Amman. Her sister continues to sleep on the floor beside
her bed each night, and her husband has still not been granted a visa
to visit her. DAI is still soliciting donations specifically for her
abdominal surgery - because of the costs of ongoing care, $15,000 is
On August 14, Buthaina was visited by a delegation of US peace
activists, including Cindy Sheehan and Reverend Yearwood from the Hip
Hop Congress in a meeting facilitated by DAI in Amman.
Earlier this summer, Buthaina H. Muhammad, 38, was severely injured when her house in Baghdad was struck by a mortar fired by unknown forces. The three other inhabitants of her house, all women, were killed. Buthaina's legs were seriously injured: one leg had to be amputated above the knee, and one leg suffered a compound fracture as a result of the explosion. One of her arms also suffered a compound fracture. The most serious wound, however, was a lesion on her abdomen - 30 centimeters of her abdominal wall was destroyed, meaning that her abdominal cavity and the organs within are exposed to the open air when not covered by a sterile dressings, which are changed regularly.
She was rushed the next day to a US army emergency hospital, but was soon transferred to an Iraqi hospital which lacked the facilities and supplies to treat her. She was already suffering from septicemia (bacteria in her blood), due to contaminated conditions.
Her husband tried to get her to Jordan - eventually, a family friend, and Iraqi doctor living in Jordan, arranged for her to be flown to Amman for treatment. She has since she arrived and is under supervision in the ICU at a hospital in Amman. She is medicated with several antibiotics to prevent catastrophic infection due to exposure of her abdominal tissue. She has been fitted with a colostomy bag, and is being fed via a naso-gastric tube because the injury to her bowels makes normal bowel function impossible.
Buthaina's right leg has to be amputated. Her left leg suffered a compound fracture.
Since being in Jordan, she suffered from a micro-embolism in the lungs, meaning blood had begun to spread under her tissue, but it was corrected by haemolytic drugs, and she has now recovered from this situation.
The treatment plan is to perform a skin graft to allow repair of the abdominal wall (to close her abdominal wound). Skin will be taken from her thigh and grafted to her abdomen. This procedure requires the attention of three specialists, one of whom is a reconstructive plastic surgeon. The plastic surgeon is recommending delaying the operation for a week (until July 21) in order to allow the tissue at the edges of the abdominal wound to heal slightly more, to increase the chance of success, but the risk of infection means that this is a very delicate time for Buthaina - if infection were to take hold in the wound, it could quickly cost her her life, because there is no mucous membrane or skin to protect her internal organs.
Initially she was hallucinating, but she is now lucid, though extremely sleepy. She is medicated for pain, but suffers bouts of vomiting. When we visited her, she repeated: "Please, help me. I really need help," over and over again.
Humanitarian agencies here charged with meeting the needs of Iraqis have been slow to respond, and none of the hospitals providing discounted medical care have agreed to accept her case, claiming that it is too difficult, and they do not have the expertise.
The hospital treatment is costing between $700 and $1000 per day (just for the drugs and maintenance). The operation for the graft will cost between $15,000 and $18,000.
After arranging for Buthaina to be flown to Amman, and as a sign of the restrictions on Iraqis traveling to Jordan now, her husband was turned back by Jordanian authorities and not allowed to enter Jordan. He is still in Baghdad in his destroyed home. He is unable to be with his wife in this emergency. However, Buthaina's sister was allowed to come from Iraq, and is with her in the hospital.
Buthaina and her family have requested any help that can be given, including donations of funds. Secure, transparent payments can be made through Electronic Iraq's Direct Aid Initiative; arrangements for payment would be made by eIraq representatives in Jordan now, who have met with Buthaina, her sister, and her doctors.
Donations to the Direct Aid Initiative are tax deductible.
Checks can be sent to DAI care of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society:
P.O. Box 382425
Cambridge, MA 02238
For more information, contact Direct Aid Initiative Coordinator Noah Merrill.
Natalie and Noah Baker Merrill are in Amman coordinating medical assistance through the Direct Aid Initiative. In addition to this, they are continuing eIraq's ongoing research and monitoring of the situation for refugees displaced by the emergency situation in Iraq. They will be in Syria and Jordan for three months this summer.