By Bill Sorem
Mustafa Al-Tameeni, an energetic 8-year old, returned to his home in Najaf, Iraq, and to his father and five siblings. Mustafa has a new leg and a new hope for his life in the war-torn country. He and his mother, Shaymaa Hasan, came to Minnesota last September for help in repairing his body. His departure was delayed two days until a friend from Iraq went to the airport in Dubai, and bought him two tickets for the final leg from Dubai to Baghdad. Delta Airlines needed proof that Mustafa and Shaymaa had ongoing passage from Dubai before they would let them board in Minneapolis. While here, Mustafa captured the hearts of all who met him, and his bubbling personality denied the severity of his physical damage. However, a one-legged man faces a grim outlook in today’s Iraq.
In 2009 Mustafa was injured in an electric fire caused by Iraq’s crumbling power grid — collateral damage from the U.S. war there. He was treated by the decimated Iraq medical system (more collateral damage) and his right leg was amputated, he lost two toes from his left foot, and his left arm was severely damaged by the fire and the care he received afterward.
The organizer of this Minnesota effort was Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi-American who formerly owned and operated Sinbad’s Restaurant in Minneapolis. Sami returned to his native Najaf in 2004 to deal with the reconstruction of his native land. He founded the Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq and established a sister city relationship between Najaf and Minneapolis. Many collaborated on the program to get Mustafa a new leg and begin repairs on his arm. St. Joan of Arc Church provided for most of the expenses other than the medical care. Shriners Hospital, Gillette Hospital, Gillette Child Professional Services, St. Paul Radiology, Mayo Clinic, and others provided free medical care. Twin Cities Peace Campaign paid for transportation and some of their personal expenses while they were in Rochester. John and Marie Braun, Minneapolis, coordinated his care.
After Mustafa received his new leg, he found an article and a picture of a man with an artificial leg competing in a race. “See, that’s me,” he exclaimed. The only crack in Mustafa’s cheerful demeanor came at Mayo when his first operation was suspended and he was told there had to be another surgery the next day. He had tears in his eyes when he was forced to wait for the second operation, because he was clearly afraid of the doctors inflicting pain (probably a result of what he experienced in Iraq). But when Mustafa’s Mayo/Shriner doctor, Dr. Moran, examined him after the operation, the boy did not even flinch, and offered a thumbs up.
As a growing boy, Mustafa will require a new leg about every year. The people of St. Joan of Arc are preparing for his probable long term care.
Editors note: St. Joan of Arc Church is accepting donations to help pay for Mustafa’s medical bills.