Image: Iraqi children with their fathers
Henny Ray Abrams  /  AP
Four Iraqi children who underwent lifesaving heart surgery last week leave the N.Y. hospital with their fathers on Dec. 27.
updated 12/27/2005 8:08:23 PM ET 2005-12-28T01:08:23

Four Iraqi children with life-threatening heart defects left a Bronx hospital Tuesday after successfully undergoing open heart surgery.

Through its Operation Iraqi Hearts, Montefiore Medical Center has performed such operations on more than 500 children around the world in the past 15 years.

“When you look into a heart, it’s not a Muslim heart, it’s not a Jewish heart. We are all the same,” Dr. Samuel Weinstein, a pediatric heart surgeon, said earlier this month after the Muslim children — three boys and a girl, ages 6 to 14 — arrived.

One of the youngsters, 11-year-old Wsam Rabea, waited two years in Iraq to see a cardiologist, developing diabetes and a seizure disorder in the meantime. His father, a taxi driver in Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, crisscrossed Iraq looking for the right doctors.

By the time the boy’s heart valve blockage was diagnosed five years ago, when he was 6, he was given only a few years to live.

The children’s families had first sought help from the U.S. military. Rotary Club’s Gift of Life International helped Army Reserve Sgt. Marikay Satryano arrange for them to go to Jordan for treatment. Doctors there determined they needed surgery in the United States.

The Rotary program paid for the hospital stays, along with the Rachel Cooper Foundation. An open-heart operation costs as much as $100,000.

The children and their fathers are being put up in the area until they return to Iraq, probably in about six weeks.

Fourteen-year-old Asaid Sibreai said: “We’re happy we’re going back home to Iraq to play with our friends.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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