A Lifeline Abroad for Iraqi Children
Army Doctor, Colleague Create Nonprofit To Link Young With Badly Needed Care
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 3, 2008; Page A09
BAGHDAD -- A couple of months after Capt. Jonathan Heavey, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center physician, arrived in Baghdad, an Iraqi doctor handed him the medical file of a 2-year-old boy with a life-threatening heart ailment. The doctor said the boy couldn't get the care he needed in Iraq.
Heavey decided to help. He e-mailed a copy of the child's electrocardiogram and other information to a former colleague at the University of Virginia, who agreed to treat the boy for free. Then Heavey began the many-layered process of applying for U.S. visas for the boy and a female guardian. Among other things, Heavey had to provide proof that the guardian wasn't pregnant. Two months into the process, the boy died.
"It was pretty crushing," said Heavey, a 33-year-old battalion surgeon assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. "It was incredibly disappointing to know there are academic facilities back home willing and able to help. But there were just too many logistical hurdles."
Appalled by the state of Iraq's health-care system and frustrated by rules preventing military doctors from treating Iraqis, Heavey and a colleague, Capt. John Knight, 36, began arranging for sick Iraqi children to receive free medical treatment abroad. During their year-long deployment, which ended last month, they created a nonprofit organization that has sent 12 children overseas for medical care, funded by $17,000 that Heavey and Knight have contributed from their own pockets and raised from family and friends.
Heavey, who is so polite and soft-spoken that he seems out of place among gruff infantrymen, and Knight, 36, a physician assistant, worked at a small aid station inside the high walls of Forward Operating Base Justice, a U.S. military base in the Kadhimiyah section of northern Baghdad.
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FYI, Camp Justice is in the same area of Baghdad in which SGT Mark patrolled.