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Interview With Doctor of Iraqi Boy in Kuwait

Aired April 16, 2003 - 12:29   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A little boy who lost both of his arms and much of his family in a coalition bombing is getting medical treatment in Kuwait. Twelve-year-old Ali Hamza was flown from Baghdad to Kuwait City overnight. His story has touched hearts around the world.
CNN's Jason Bellini is covering this story. He joins me now live from Kuwait -- Jason.

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra -- well, young Ali, now in sterile hospital confines in Kuwait City, is expected to survive, according to his doctor, who we spoke to just recently. The doctor also says the hospital has been receiving calls from around the world, individuals offering to pay for prosthetic limbs to replace the two arms that he lost in the blast that also killed another 15 members of his family, including his stepmother -- I'm sorry -- his mother, his stepfather, several of his siblings, and many cousins.

He's now recovering in this hospital from a procedure today, the first of what will be many procedures. This one dealing with the burns which are on his body, affecting 30 percent of his body, which is the reason why he needed to be in Kuwait City so urgently. He was already suffering from infections because the hospital in Iraq was unable to treat him. They had to remove the layers of the -- the dead layers of skin caused by the burn. Very painful procedure, and they were successful in that procedure, and they're hoping to begin skin grafts as early as this Sunday, and continue his progress and his treatment.

It will be quite a while before they're even able to address his main concern, which is that he has arms again that he will be able to use. His uncle is there with him in the hospital. He's been receiving a lot of visitors. Some Kuwait City authorities and journalists have also been visiting him. We saw him earlier today. He was asking for water, but unfortunately he can't drink any water because of the medicine they used in the surgical operation. In that hospital as well, several other burn victims from Iraq who are also being treated for the same types of injuries, other tragedies of the war -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: No doubt one incredibly strong little boy. Jason Bellini in Kuwait City, thank you so much.

Well, Ali's doctor, Imad Al-Najada just got his first look at his young patient overnight. He joins me now by way of videophone from Kuwait City. Dr. Al-Najada, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us how Ali is doing. DR. IMAD AL-NAJADA, ALI'S DOCTOR: Most welcome, Kyra. Ali is doing much better than yesterday. Yesterday when we received him, he was in very bad shape. He was hemodynamically (ph) not stable. He was taken from Baghdad to Kuwait without IV fluid. He was dehydrated. We start to give him a lot of fluid, and we give him blood. We sterilize him. We did for him today -- afternoon, removing all the dead tissue and the necrotic fat (ph) until we reach the good level of healthy tissue, then cover it with the homograft (ph). This is a graft from another person. We keep it for temporary as -- dressing, biological dressing. And we will remove it after a couple of days, most likely on Monday, and we remove this biological dressing, and we take -- we harvest a skin graph from his body, and we cover the whole area -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Doctor -- what has he been saying to you, Doctor? Is he asking anything of you? Is he thanking you? Is he wanting to know about family? Tell us what this little boy has been saying to you.

AL-NAJADA: Actually, today he was in good condition after the operation and started speaking with a journalist and answering all their questions. The thing which he was -- they asking about -- the journalists, especially the broadcasting, what the message he wants to reflect from the war. He said, first of all, thank you for the attention they're giving to him, but he hopes nobody from the children in the war they will suffer like what he suffer.

PHILLIPS: Does he understand why...


PHILLIPS: Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning? Does he understand it?

AL-NAJADA: Actually, we don't discuss this issue with him because he is -- the burn cases, and the type of injury, he's in very bad psychological trauma. We would like to pass this stage and then we can discuss this issue. But we discussed this issue with his uncle, and the message we get from his family, they said they are living far away from the American troops -- from the military of Saddam of Fedayeen by five kilometers, and they don't know how they hit them by the missiles.

PHILLIPS: Dr. Al-Najada...


PHILLIPS: ... what about his future? You mentioned his uncle has been very vocal. Is that where Ali will go? Will he eventually move and live with his uncle?

AL-NAJADA: Most likely, yes, he will go and move with his uncle. But also he was asked what he was hoping. He said, before the injury, I was dreaming to became a lieutenant or a policeman, now I lost all my future. But he's very clever child. He finished the second class -- six years, sorry, and he's doing fine in the school -- Kyra. PHILLIPS: His strength -- his strength is absolutely amazing. Doctor, how do you advise him? When he talks about his future, how do you encourage him? What do you tell him he will be able to do and that -- how do you support him?

AL-NAJADA: Actually I tell him, he himself he noticed there is much difference between his condition yesterday and today, and by the time we see his body is recovered and there are artificial limbs can fit on his arm, and he can do all the function what he's supposed to do by these procedures, he will be in very good condition.

But for time being, all the people in Kuwait, they are trying to support him. Many families from the ministry and Sheikh Sabah (ph), himself today he visits him, and minister of health, he visits him. Many people, and as well we have a social worker working hard with him to improve his status -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, Doctor, my final question, sir. When you were treating this young boy, when you saw his condition, when you observed how innocent he was and how strong he was being, how did that affect you as a doctor? And I'm sure you became his friend immediately.

AL-NAJADA: Exactly, Kyra. This -- especially this type -- this type of injury. All the patients became very sensitive and very friendly with their doctor because they are thinking it will take long time.

Actually, we are trying as much as we can to understand their problems, and we try to solve their problems through the social worker, through the psychologist, through the people who would like to spend some money to improve their condition.

And of course, we feel very sad to receive a child with this type of injury. It's very sad for us, but we have to improve his condition to stay in the community as a normal human being.

PHILLIPS: Well, Dr. Imad Al-Najada...


PHILLIPS: We salute you, sir, for what you've done. And how you are encouraging little Ali, and please extend our thoughts and prayers to him, and thank you so much for your time, sir.


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