CBSN

Iraqi Teen Treated In U.S. Burn Center

An Army medical team escorts Hannan Shihab, center, and her mother to an aircraft at Baghdad International Airport Sunday, May 4, 2003, in Iraq. The 15-year-old Iraqi girl who was burned by oil from a lamp during a coalition forces bombing campaign near her home in Iraq is being treated at the University of Michigan.
AP
A 15-year-old Iraqi girl who was severely burned during coalition bombing was brought to the United States for treatment in an effort that started with a train conductor who saw her on television.

Hannan Shihab, who arrived in Michigan on Tuesday, is believed to be the first Iraqi child injured during the war to receive care at a U.S. hospital, according to the University of Michigan and the office of a congressman who helped get her here.

She was listed in stable condition after she was examined Wednesday at the university hospitals' burn center, said Dr. Paul Taheri, the center's division chief.

Hannan was injured after a kerosene lamp near her bed overturned during a bombing raid in March.

Second- and third-degree burns cover 20 percent of the girl's body, including her face, hands, chest and legs, Taheri said. He said she will have to undergo numerous surgeries over about six weeks, plus months of rehabilitation.

Journalists from Britain's Independent Television News found her April 14, swathed in dirty bandages and sobbing in pain outside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. They took her to one of the city's few functioning hospitals.

"ITN is not an aid organization, but we had to help her," said ITN's Tim Rogers, who accompanied Hannan to Detroit. "We took her fresh bandages and ointment, but there was nothing more we could do."

Among those seeing the ITN story relayed on CNN was the 54-year-old train conductor, James Thornberry.

"I kind of put myself in their place," Thornberry said. "How would I feel if my daughters had suffered those kinds of horrific injuries and I couldn't secure the help for them that they needed?"

He called the burn center and within hours, it agreed to treat her for free, he said.

"Once the University of Michigan said yes, I knew it was something that was supposed to happen and the other obstacles would be overcome," he said.

Through ITN and CNN, he located the girl and her family.

Rep. Mike Rogers spoke to the Defense Department and immigration officials and got her on military flights from Iraq to Germany. And Northwest Airlines donated two first-class, round-trip tickets to take the girl and her mother from Germany to Detroit.

Tim Rogers sat next to the girl on the plane. She knows some English but could not talk much because her lips are bloated from the burns, he said.

"She says thank you with her eyes," he said.

Said Thornberry, a father of four: "I am very saddened that you can't conduct a war without innocent people getting hurt. I guess this is my way of doing something."