MOST LIKELY TO CHANGE THE WORLD:

HUSSEIN


AFTER TRAVELING 7,500 MILES FROM IRAQ WITH JUST A MEDICAL ESCORT BY HIS SIDE, 10-YEAR-OLD HUSSEIN WAS MET BY A DOZEN DOCTORS HE DIDN’T KNOW, SPEAKING A LANGUAGE HE COULDN’T UNDERSTAND. BUT INSTEAD OF FEAR HE FELT HOPE. THEY JUST MIGHT HELP HIM SEE AGAIN.

“It was a challenge, since they had not seen this type of injury before,” Debra recalls. “They worked tirelessly to develop a medical plan.”

Hussein’s journey began two-and-a-half years earlier with a visit to his grandfather’s gravesite. He stepped on a landmine in the cemetery, the blast costing him his eyesight and left hand and covering more than 30 percent of his body with second and third-degree burns. Iraqi doctors stabilized him, but after 10 surgeries it was evident that Hussein required more advanced treatment. 

The Arizona chapter of Healing the Children arranged his travel and care, optimistic that doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital could offer Hussein a better life. His host mother Debra calls the physicians who donated their time and efforts, “the dream team.”

“It was a challenge, since they had not seen this type of injury before,” Debra recalls. “They worked tirelessly to develop a medical plan.”

Hussein underwent extensive procedures on his eyes, requiring a left corneal transplant and reconstruction of his right eye socket. Doctors performed additional eye and facial surgeries, fitted him with an artificial right eye and a prosthetic hand, and repaired his teeth. Debra describes his treatments as “lifesaving and life-changing.”

Staying in Phoenix for 15 months, Hussein lived with Debra and her husband Raymond and attended a local school as he received follow-up care. By the time he returned to Iraq, he had regained some of his eyesight, learned to use his new hand and couldn’t wait to teach his five siblings to speak English. 

Now 19, Hussein is employed as an Arabic-English interpreter by a hospital in Iraq, working alongside doctors and therapists. He counteracts his limited eyesight by enlarging text on an iPad and has earned the respect of his coworkers—so much so that no one treats him as if he is disabled. Hussein is an inspiration to the patients, who garner hope from his success. His job makes him feel needed, and he is proud to earn a living in a place where jobs are scarce.

Influenced by his time in Phoenix, Hussein loves American movies. He lives in his own apartment, a rarity in a culture where adults typically reside with their parents. But Hussein brings a worldly perspective to a country that very few citizens ever travel outside. Debra says, “He considers it a miracle that he survived and is determined to make that same kind of impact on others.”