Image: Wsim Rabea
The Children's Hospital At Monte
Wsim Rabea, 11, of Iraq, is comforted by his father Rabea H. Abo Senda, before a surgical team at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York began life saving surgery on Wsim for an obstructed heart valve on Dec. 19.
updated 12/19/2005 6:10:43 PM ET 2005-12-19T23:10:43

An 11-year-old boy from Iraq underwent lifesaving heart surgery Monday in New York, the first of four ailing children who will be treated this week after their families sought help from the U.S. military.

Wsim Rabea was vulnerable to sudden death from heart valve stenosis, a narrowing of the area beneath his aortic valve, until the early morning operation by Dr. Samuel Weinstein, director of pediatric heart surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Montefiore Medical Center, officials said.

Weinstein said the surgery went smoothly and Wsim was soon awake.

“When I left him he was arguing with his father about when he could play soccer,” Weinstein said.

Before the surgery, Weinstein said, Wsim would faint after any kind of exertion.

Wsim and the three other Iraqi children arrived in New York on Friday with their fathers in what the hospital is calling “Operation Iraqi Hearts.”

The children’s families were among 60 who had sought help from the American military’s Civic Assistance Command in Baghdad. They came to the attention of Army Reserve Sgt. Marikay Satryano, a teacher from Tarrytown, N.Y., who was stationed in Amman, Jordan.

With help from the service group Rotary International, Satryano arranged for the children to be taken from Baghdad to Amman for treatment, and it was determined that several children with life-threatening defects needed surgery in the United States.

“Without her participation and involvement none of this would have happened,” said Montefiore’s chief medical officer, Steven Safyer, at a hospital news conference.

Weinstein plans to operate on two boys, ages 6 and 14, on Tuesday and a 12-year-old girl on Wednesday.

Rotary’s Gift of Life program had contacted Weinstein, who agreed to donate his services. The Rotary program was helping pay for the Bronx hospital stays, along with another group, the Rachel B. Cooper Foundation.

Wsim’s father, Rabea Senda, said through an interpreter, “I have been happy since Day 1, when you decided to bring my son here. ... This is not easy to happen to any child in my country.”

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