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Hussain's Greatest Aspiration: To Live
Hussain swaps stethoscopes with his cardiologist.
Hussain swaps stethoscopes with his cardiologist.
Hussain's Greatest Aspiration: To Live

This is 7 year-old Hussain. Like most Iraqi boys, he loves to play soccer. In fact, Hussain loves soccer so much he plays it even when he can't find a ball! "Air-soccer" he calls it, and somehow he always manages to get past me and score. I met Hussain and his father outside a hospital in southern Iraq. They heard that an international surgical team was in town and were waiting as a family for a shot at lifesaving surgery. Hussain was born with a heart defect that, if left untreated, will eventually take his life. He was also born in Iraq, and, unfortunately, there isn't a single surgeon in the country who is capable of performing the surgery needed to save Hussain's life. But despite all this, Hussain was still the cheeriest, most life-giving child in the crowd. I stood in line and learned more about Hussain's 7 year-long search for a heart surgery, how his heart keeps him from playing soccer with his friends, and how he had never lost hope. "When my heart is fixed'" Hussain would say. Never "if," his dad shared. Hussain had the blue-tipped fingers, the bloodless lips, and the shortness of breath characteristic to children with his heart defect, but he barely seemed to notice. He exuded kindness; kissing doctors as they put an IV into his hand, checking his cardiologist's heartbeat (and then checking on a dozen other people, just to be safe), and even teaching clumsy old yours truly how to play air-soccer. He brought life and energy to an otherwise very dreary hospital. Iraqi doctors across the country have told us that, under Saddam Hussein, children with Down syndrome rarely (if ever) received medical treatment because they were considered a "waste of resources." As a result, the country is facing a backlog of children in need of heart surgery. But there is hope! Just a few years ago it would have been impossible for Hussain to dream of becoming a professional football player, but no longer. This May, we are ending Hussain's surgery search and proving he isn't a "waste of resources" by giving him the lifesaving heart surgery he needs to join his friends on the soccer field and to stay there. You can learn more about Hussain and his journey to surgery at

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