An improvised explosive device (IED) struck the taxi of 18-month-old Teeba Fadhil and her 3-year-old brother as they traveled on a Baghdad street in September 2003. The explosion killed Teeba’s brother and left her with second-degree burns on her hands and head. She spent the next 40 days in the hospital and was left with significant scarring.
Enter Barbara Marlowe, a Cleveland-area resident who, after seeing a picture of Teeba in the newspaper, immediately contacted the head of pediatrics at a local children’s hospital to ask if they would help.
“I couldn’t believe the density of the red tape involved in bringing Teeba to the United States,” said Marlowe. “I remember one day very clearly when I was in my driveway, praying to God to speed up the process. Then, I looked down at my feet and found a golf ball marker imprinted with the words ‘God Loves You,’ and I knew everything would be okay.”
With help from the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund in Kent, Ohio, Teeba and her grandmother were able to leave Iraq. The shy, frightened girl arrived at Marlowe’s home in Concord, Ohio, on July 16, 2007—exactly one year from the day that Marlowe first read about her in the news.
Shortly after Teeba arrived, Marlowe took her to see University Hospital’s Arun Gosain, MD, who mapped out a three-year plan of tissue expansion, grafting and the development of prosthetic ears. He aimed to restore not only Teeba’s appearance, but also her self-confidence.
Dr. Gosain, and ASPS Member Surgeon, began treating Teeba by inserting a series of tissue expanders, making sure to explain to her exactly what would happen throughout every phase of her treatment. He told Teeba that she would be making nice, new skin on her back, which would then be placed on her forehead.
When asked about Dr. Gosain, Marlowe positively beams. “I can’t imagine going through this with any other surgeon. Dr. Gosain is just angelic—he is calming and reassuring and makes us feel like Teeba is the only patient he has. We are a very spiritual family, and we absolutely feel that he was put in our path for a reason.”
Teeba has adapted well to her situation, and today is much like any other 6-year-old. She has learned English and attends elementary school, and she enjoys riding her bike, practicing karate and playing in the backyard with her friends. She is even getting more comfortable with strangers who ask about her injuries and tissue expanders, telling them simply, “I’m growing my new face.”
“Teeba seems to know that reconstructive surgery can transform her face; yet the spirit of transformation radiates in her smile long before the reconstruction is complete,” says Dr. Gosain. “Her spirit is the true secret to her newly found confidence and drive.”