written by Dick O’Toole
Following is an article by Dick O’Toole about one of the Foundation’s recent cases, 8-year old Abdul Hakim Hussein. This child and his family were victims of a late night American air strike in 2004 as they slept peacefully in their Fallujah home. Young Abdul was maimed and disfigured in the attack; his pregnant mother was injured as debris ripped through her torso, claiming her unborn baby. For the next two months, as the war raged on around him, Abdul Hakim endured several surgeries to his damaged face, including removal of his ruined eye and the placement of a makeshift prosthesis that actually caused further disfigurement. When the boy finally returned to his school, his friends and classmates turned away from him in disgust. But there are thousands of Abdul Hakims and the American organization, No More Victims, is in the business of helping them. They arranged for Abdul and his father Ismael, to travel to Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital to seek treatments from experts there. However the hospital was not able to meet the financial needs of Abdul’s extensive surgeries and it looked as if the boy would return home untreated. Enter Mr. and Mrs. O’Toole who read of the boy’s plight in the Pittsburgh papers. They immediately contacted The Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation that committed the needed $50,000 for the boy’s medical and surgical needs, and the rest is history.
I’m reluctant to pick up the morning paper these days, as new tragedies in Iraq are constantly unfolding. But my wife and I became interested in a story about a young boy from Iraq who’d been badly injured by Americans in a nighttime air strike. This boy, amazingly, was now in our city, Pittsburgh, waiting for treatments that would attempt to restore his disfigured face.
The Picture in our local paper showed a shy boy whose one big brown eye, full of life, stood in contrast to this other eye that was milky white. Damage to his face included a distorted mouth and damaged jaw; the tissue on his left cheek was mangled by scar tissue and the lower lid of his missing eye drooped badly. These severe injuries would be a challenge to the best plastic surgeons.
But now the bad news: There wasn’t enough money to fund the needed, complex surgeries. Without hesitation, my wife Colleen and I decided to contact my sister, Eileen Tye, and ask if Abdul’s case would be of interest to The Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation that she and her husband run. And the good news: Yes, they would be very interested. In Boston, they had already helped one Iraqi boy who would have died if his injuries, also caused by American fire, were not treated. They were keenly aware of the problems faced by these young victims of war.
We were very excited and we knew that this boy, Abdul, would become part of our lives. We met the host family and their neighbors, an Iraqi family who would act as interpreters for Abdul and his father during their stay. Then we met the Husseins themselves and the friendship began. Despite his terrible injuries it was easy to see the little boy inside – a normal, fun-loving 8-year old. It was clear to us that he had been an unusually handsome child. A bond developed quickly and my wife, my son Tom and I were enthused about figuring out some interesting activities that an 8-year old would enjoy.