The story

One Monday nearly a year ago, a 4-year-old Iraqi boy named Youssif was sitting outside his modest Baghdad home eating chips and playing when masked assailants doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. Their motive remains a mystery, but their violence left the boy's face horribly disfigured.

If Youssif had been injured in the United States, he'd probably have received skin grafts within days. But in war-ravaged Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, the treatment was less than state of the art.

Doctors scraped away dead tissue using a brush and a thin metal instrument called a debriding tool. The extraordinarily painful procedure kept the boy's wounds from becoming infected but left him with thick, raised skin where he'd been burned. The scar tissue pulled on surrounding healthy skin, restricting movement; Youssif could barely open his mouth enough to eat. A smile was impossible.

When California plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Grossman heard a news report about Youssif, he volunteered to help.

"Sometimes the situation you're presented with gets you right in the heart and you say, 'You know what? I want to do something. I want to reach out,' " said Grossman, whose father started the Grossman Burn Center in 1969. Read full article »

David S. Martin is a senior producer with CNN Medical News.

Rescuing Youssif
Watch a CNN exclusive "Impact Your World -- Rescuing Youssif" about an Iraqi boy's ordeal
Dec. 24 at 10 p.m. ET; Dec. 25 at 4 p.m. ET

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