Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Real Accomplishment

After returning from my R&R, I'm not happy to be back. Life in the compound hasn't changed any since I left, and that's exactly what bothers me. My daily activities could not be more routine here. Variety involves choosing between the two restaurants in the compound, or maybe what drink I'll order at the bar. There are plenty of interesting people and I do have great co-workers, but a perfectly normal activity like taking a walk is not an option. I'm tired of running on the treadmill and would like to go for a real jog. The contrast between the serendipity of my R&R and life in the compound is irritating. After only a few days at a hostel in Bangkok, I feel like I know the city much better than Baghdad, where I have been living for more than three months.

And what do I have to show for my time here, besides being completely unfamiliar with the city where I'm living? Sure, my supervisor is pleased with my work and everyone says I'm making an important contribution to the team. However, one of the major reasons I came here was because I wanted my efforts to help the Iraqi people, as naive and saccharine as that might sound. In theory, the reports I write every day are an important part of the reconstruction efforts and without them additional funds for the project might be withheld. Yet this is a tenuous connection. More aid might not be spent, but it would likely be spent the same way regardless of who penned the reports. Confined to the compound, I also don't have the satisfaction of seeing the beneficiaries. I learn about it second hand, from our Iraqi staff. Thought its not fair for me to complain about this, becuase I did know what it would be like.

So I'm pleased that an Iraqi girl is now being treated for her injuries. I wrote a letter to doctors whose contacts I found over the internet asking if they might be willing to provide surgery free of charge. I first approached doctors who worked on Extreme Makeover. The few that responded said that I needed doctors who specialized in reconstructive surgery, not cosmetic surgery. Eventually, one of the Extreme Makeover doctors talked to a friend, who agreed to do the surgery. She is now being treated at UCLA.

Reading over this short article about her treatment, I'm astonished at its inaccuracy. Or at least, how much the coverage differs from my understanding of her case. Her family wasn't fleeing an attack, as the article describes. The mother was killed and Marwa was wounded when their house was bombed. Some funds were already given to the family to repair their home.

Its also strange that this case has not generated more attention. Its just as significant as the Iraqi girl who was born with birth defects and treated in Atlanta, arguably even moreso. With Marwa's story, the American doctors are rectifying a mistake by that occurred because of their military's action. Surely there is more of an obligation to treat those cases first. I think the press person at Childspring International deserves some congratulations.

What is unfortunate is that there are so many more Iraqis that need to be connected to doctors who will help. Marwa had been injured for almost 2 years, but no one bothered to find a doctor who would perform the surgery. When I looked for organizations who had experience with this sort of thing, I learned that there is really a shortage of patients who have been brought to the attention of international organizations and that there are few individuals who can manage the logistics. But there are plenty of doctors who need to be connected to patients. In fact, this organization guarantees that it can help any Iraqi child who cannot be treated inside Iraq.

Working on the case is probably the most satisfying thing that I have done during my time in Iraq. Not only because my efforts really did help someone, but because I was able to take real initiative. I wasn't tasked with the assignment or given directions. I need more professional opportunities like this, and I doubt they're to be found in Iraq. They may not exist in development at all. Of course, its silly for me to ask for a role like this, as having it handed to me would destroy its appeal.


Blogger Stoecker said...

God bless you for what you did to help this girl. A "real accomplishment" indeed!

March 14, 2006 11:12 AM  

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