Friday, December 21, 2007
Rescuing Youssif
Dr. Sanjay Gupta playing soccer with Youssif.
Every now and then, we as journalists get to report a story that makes a difference. It's a story where people see and then act. Such was the case with a little boy named Youssif. By now, you may know his story. He was four years old, playing outside in a Baghdad neighborhood when men with masks came and poured gasoline on his face. Then, in an unbelievable act of cruelty, they set him on fire and ran away. Four years old.

Cruelty like that really does exist in the world. You will see it if you watch the CNN Impact Your World Special "Rescuing Youssif." But, you will see something else. Something that is wonderful. Something that offers hope and optimism. You will see goodness that fights that cruelty with a vengeance. And wins. You see, when correspondent Arwa Damon and her producer Mohammed first started reporting the story on CNN, people all over the world reacted. You reacted. You gave letters of support, and money to help. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was enough to bring Youssif and his family to the United States and to house them for the entire time of his treatment. It was enough to start Youssif on the path to care for those horribly disfiguring burns. It was enough to make Youssif safe. It was enough to impact the world.

Through Youssif's eyes, you will see what happened on that awful day. You will be taken on a journey from the bombs in Baghdad to the beaches of Los Angeles. You will watch state-of-the-art burn surgery at work and learn about Dr. Peter Grossman, who stepped up to take care of Youssif and donated all of his services. You will see a remarkable transformation. As you watch, though, look not just at the physical healing, but notice the emotional healing as well. If you are like me, it will give you chills and make you feel good inside.

Maybe it's because I am a doctor, or maybe because I have children of my own, but I could not stop thinking about Youssif. Maybe it's that I have spent time in Iraq seeing things that I wish I could erase from my mind. For all those reasons and many more, I am so proud to be able to report this story, along with Arwa Damon, a woman I admire. Watch, and you will see why it just may be the best story to come out of this war. It is goodness overcoming cruelty.

Programming note: CNN's Impact Your World Special "Rescuing Youssif" premieres Monday at 10 p ET. It airs again at 4p ET Tuesday and Friday at 8p ET.
Hi Dr.Sanjay Gupta :-)

Wow, that's a great to hear, that's
the best news, this is really a wonderful read.

This story broke my heart when I saw it before, but it's a great and an impressive story. So thanks so much for showing it again on Monday!! I can hardly wait!!!
When his father transfer to LA bound plane he said that " I feel like I'm in a dream, "Someone needs to pinch me" I never forget his remark.

I cried loudly when I saw it first, it made me crazy. Youssif is such a beautiful 5 years old kid. I'm so glad Youssif's treatment is getting better. Please keep going here so that we can enjoy more of your beautiful stories from around the world. I'd like to share this program with my family and friends. I love reading your articles. Thanks again for the amazing story. Keep up the splendid work.

A year has passed away too quickly!
The end of the year always make us feel as if something is lacking...
I hope you, your family,your friends and the CNN staff a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :-D
it puts in me limbo. as horrified as i am that things so horrible as this go on in the world...it makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry the world away... when i see such strength and courage from people like Youssif...it is so very encouraging. i admire parents for their strength and ability to be strong for their children. i am lured into these stories... as i hope if i am ever faced with such heartbreaking tragedy... that i may find some strength in the shadows of theirs. it is uplifting and hopeful. it helps me be more optimistic of the beauty and strength, courage and love there is in this world. i appreciate cnn covering youssif's story so in depth.
it is scary being a parent...wondering if you have everything you need inside of you. youssif's mom strength gives me hope... that i could be superwoman too.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta,
Please do not misunderstand this message - the story of Yousiff is a heartwarming humane story. However, during the same time, in the same state of California, a young American girl died because an insurance company denied her coverage for a liver transplant her family could not afford to pay. There was no publicity until it was too late. There were no donations make, no offerings of doctors or hospitals willing to donate their services. Why did you not grab this story yourself, Dr. Gupta? This Christmas her family may have been able to hug her instead of facing her funeral, and the special t.v. show could have been about them. How sad we do not take care of our own.
Mrs. G. Rigas
Astoria, NY
Dr. Gupta;

Thank you for sharing Yousef story to the world. I have been facinated by his recovery and wish him and his family the best.
Yousef has seen the best Americans can offer in terms of generosity. I hope we can expand this good will such that other Iraqie kids get the same treatment. How about everyone donate a little money for a new burn hospital to be built in Iraq named after Yousef so other kids in Iraq will receive the same treatment if needed. Maybe US government could use this moment to show to the world what Americans are good for. Just a thought...

mostafa
I read your blog in perfect timing tonight. The program is on here in 35 minutes, and I have set the DVR. I will share this story with my family tonight. I am sorry that I was not aware of what happened to this little boy, but his story is one that must be told. Thank you for reporting it.
I found the story both brutal and heart warming at the same time. I hope you continue to follow and report Youssif's progress.

How did Youssif spend Christmas?
Thank you for showing the story. The letter that was read at the end of the show was written by me Holly you can't imagin what a shock it was to see that on world TV. It was the best Christmas surpise in my life.
Dr. Gupta,
This is one of the most heartwarming stories I have ever heard. I saw the story on CNN several months ago and have been following it like crazy. Youssif is absolutely adorable and I fell for him and his family so much. In watching the specail, when he went into surgery and was crying, I started crying like it was my own child. Hopefully this family can stay here and make a new life in the U.S I fear retribution if they go home. It is a truly inspirational story. I have not really agreed with the war but when you see these kinds of stories it is hard to not agree with it. If we can go to other countries and help them get better t hen it is waht we need to do. I know people will say we need to help our own and we do. We can get better on that though.
I will keep following this story and crying for Youssif. He is such a strong and brave boy and I wish his family all the best. I would also like to say thank you to all of the people who are helping him and his family go through this.
Thank You
Kristy Demas
I've thought of Youssif all through the holidays, wondering if he had a nice Christmas, and hoping for another update, in the very near future. Such a precious, brave little boy, has gone through so much, and grown so much, at such a young age. God Bless him and his family.., keep them safe. I look forward to the next update. Thankyou so much for bringing us his story.

Sandra
What a terrific story. But what happens to these stories and these people? Like yesterday's one-hit wonders they briefly touch our emotions then fade from our memories. Great for the news of the day but not a lot of difference is made in our world.

I'd like to know what ever happened to little Ali? Remember him? He's the wee boy who was all over the tv when he had his arms and legs blown off after an American bomb landed on his house in Bahgdad.

AS Wayne Watson sings; Yesterday's news said people were dying down in Africa
Burned in the afternoon sun--Too little to eat
Armies of "saviours" ran to the rescue
While the world looked on
To help while the cameras were rolling
Then sound the retreat
Yesterday's news...Yesterday's news
It was so sad to see what pain Youssif and his family have had to endure, hopefully the horror will fade from their memories in time. What puzzled me was his father asking why there aren't any terrorists in America and no one told him about VA Tech, Columbine and the mall shootings. Unless it was done off-camera. I hope he was enlightened about our problems.
Dear Dr.Sanjay Gupta,
I have been reading with a lot of interest about Youssif’s alleged story. It is very commendable that your organization has been trying to help children such as Youssif, whose story as broadcast by CNN over and over again as follows…”Few stories have touched CNN.com users like that of 5-year-old Youssif, an Iraqi boy who had gone out to play on a January day when he was suddenly grabbed by masked men, doused in gas and set on fire”. It is certainly a very noble deed to help such children with horrid deformities for whom treatment may be unaffordable. I am very glad that your organisation is doing a very commendable job in this direction. I would like to know only one thing… Does your organisation and the eminent surgeons & others who are caring for Youssif sincerely believe the story of how he sustained his injury? I happen to be a surgeonmyself. Youssif’s burn injuries to me look very very much like those due to scalding ( such as due to a hot liquid having been poured over his head…by god knows who) & not due to being ‘doused in petrol & set on fire’ as alleged. I will be very obliged if you could clarify this with the plastic surgeons caring for Youssif and plastic surgeons around the world & let the world know. It is one thing to help deserving kids with burn injuries but another to swallow whatever story is doled out.
I will be thankful for your reply.

Sincerely yours,
anonymous.
Dear Dr.Sanjay gupta,
I have been reading with a lot of interest about Youssif’s alleged story. It is very commendable that your organization has been trying to help children such as Youssif, whose story as broadcast by CNN over and over again as follows…”Few stories have touched CNN.com users like that of 5-year-old Youssif, an Iraqi boy who had gone out to play on a January day when he was suddenly grabbed by masked men, doused in gas and set on fire”. It is certainly a very noble deed to help such children with horrid deformities for whom treatment may be unaffordable. I am very glad that your organisation is doing a very commendable job in this direction. I would like to know only one thing… Does your organisation and the eminent surgeons & others who are caring for Youssif sincerely believe the story of how he sustained his injury? I happen to be a surgeon myself. Youssif’s burn injuries to me look very very much like those due to scalding ( such as due to a hot liquid having been poured over his head…by god knows who) & not due to being ‘doused in petrol & set on fire’ as alleged. I will be very obliged if you could clarify this with the plastic surgeons caring for Youssif & other surgeons all over the world and let the world know what the majority of plastic surgeons think. It is one thing to help deserving kids with burn injuries but another to swallow whatever story is doled out.
I will be thankful for your reply.
M.Aroon Kamath.
OMG
I just saw this on the news and I stared and stared because im not really interested in the weather and all like my father but when i saw this i mean like O.o so im soo happy that he survived and amazing recovery...

- :D ME :D
Someone else wrote..."Please do not misunderstand this message - the story of Yousiff is a heartwarming humane story. However, during the same time, in the same state of California, a young American girl died because an insurance company denied her coverage for a liver transplant her family could not afford to pay. There was no publicity until it was too late. There were no donations make, no offerings of doctors or hospitals willing to donate their services. Why did you not grab this story yourself, Dr. Gupta? This Christmas her family may have been able to hug her instead of facing her funeral, and the special t.v. show could have been about them. How sad we do not take care of our own..." And I agree so very much!!! Let's show the World how wonderful we are but hide the fact that our "OWN" are DYING because all we can think of is how much money we can make!!!

God Bless Yossif (and I do mean that)but GOD HELP THE USA!!!!!

S Murphy
NY,New York
Hi Dr. Gupta,

Thank you so much for discovering the life of Yousif. It really touched my heart and I ended up crying while watching his story. Inspite of what happened to him and with the support of his family, he is determined and courageous enough to endure the pain and sorrow.

Pls extend my regards to this beautiful, energetic and most of all, courageous child.

To Yousif: I hope one day we will meet each other ( I want to take picture of you together). You have touched the world with your amazing story. You take care, many loved you and continue to inspire others with your life. Have a blessful life ahead....
Dear Dr. Gupta,

As an Iraqi, I want to thank you so much for this amazing coverage on Youssif.

I sat down to watch "Rescuing Youssif" along with my mother, and we couldn't help it but to cry. We know of so many friends who have suffered in Iraq, and so many children, women, and men suffering until this day.

It is sad what the world holds of cruelty. Please let Youssif know that all the Iraqis here in the U.S. support him and love him. We all feel for him and his parents, and pray that the Lord gives them the strength they need. We have strong faith in the doctors and all those who are helping Youssif, truly an amazing team doing an amazing job!

Youssif you're a hero!

Love,
Basma & Family
In this rancorous world of crime, America saves another life of a torment child Youssif. Thanks to everyone who made it possible.
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